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Tuition Task Force to consider increases in UA fees

Students at the University of Arizona – and their parents – should prepare to open their wallets wider next fall, as UA is considering instituting more than 150 new program and course fees, as well as nearly $1,000 in new or increased mandatory fees for all undergraduates.

Increases to current course and program fees are also being discussed as the university deals with about $76 million in cuts to the state-funded portion of its budget this year and prepares for expected further cuts next year.

The proposed fees are only under discussion, UA officials said, but a Tuition Task Force will meet Tuesday to decide if it wants to push for approval by the Arizona Board of Regents next month.

UA’s sister universities are also considering instituting a tuition surcharge, according to Regents spokeswoman Andrea Smiley.

“UA is not considering (a tuition surcharge) yet, but who knows what will come out of tomorrow’s discussion with the task force,” Smiley said.

Regents approved tuition and mandatory fee increases for fall 2009 in December, bringing UA’s undergraduate in-state tuition and fee costs above $6,000 for the first time.

The efforts at the state’s three public universities are reaction to multi-million budget cuts this year and an expected minimum 10 percent cut from the state next fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“Part of our mandate had been to look at alternative ways to bring in funding through special workshops, fees or differential tuition,” said Maurice Sevigny, dean of the College of Fine Arts. “We decided against differential tuition and went with proposing fees. When we’re reducing our budget by 5, 10, 20 percent, you have to do something. Theater Arts’ operating budget barely covers their phone bill now.”

If the proposed fees are approved, a percentage will be set aside for student financial aid, said Juan Garcia, vice president for instruction.

“I agree with Robert that we can’t price kids out of an education,” Garcia said, referring to UA President Robert N. Shelton. “So one of the requirements of any fee is that whatever a department generates, they have to set aside 20 percent for aid.”

The fees are divided into three categories: program fees or differential tuition tied to a particular academic unit; course fees to offset things like lab supplies and field trips; and across-the board fees to help cover UA’s operating costs.

“The mandatory fees – the library fee, IT, utilities – are the ones that basically pay the bills,” said Gail Burd, vice provost for academic affairs. “We met with students and said, ‘These are the things we need money for. Which of them are you willing to spend money on?’ That’s how we arrived with the list.”

One of the biggest student complaints has been a lack of adequate academic advising, and a proposed fee of $30 per student per year would address “academic advisor compensation, development and training,” according to an internal UA document given the Citizen by Graduate and Professional Student Council leaders.

The request to develop proposals for class or program fees came from the provost’s office, but that request was prompted by regents’ approval of course fees and differential tuition at Arizona State University in December, Garcia said.

“The fiasco that happened over tuition, when ASU and NAU’s requests were approved and UA’s was denied, that sent the board into crisis mode and in the process, the regents didn’t take a careful review of what (ASU President) Michael Crow was asking with course fees and differential tuition and when it passed, that opened the opportunity for the other universities to consider fees,” Garcia explained.

The Tuition Task Force meeting will also include discussion of federal stimulus money, Smiley said.

Draft guidelines for receiving the money require Arizona to restore higher education funding to fiscal year 2009 levels, which could mean increases in fees or tuition might not be necessary.

“But at this point, there’s no certainty about that money,” Smiley said. “There are still alot of moving pieces.”


Proposed mandatory fees for UA undergraduates, per year

$30: Academic advising

$50: Green energy initiative

$225: Student Health and Wellness fee

$575: Utilities and operating costs

Proposed mandatory fees for UA graduate students, per student, per year

$100: Acceptance deposit

$50: Green energy initiative

$225: Student Health and Wellness fee

$575: Utilities and operating costs

There are also increases of $10 to $95 in current mandatory fees approved in prior years by undergraduate and graduate students.

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