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University presidents seek tuition surcharges in lieu of fee increases



Last week, University of Arizona President Robert N. Shelton said he wouldn’t ask the Arizona Board of Regents to consider a tuition surcharge for students this fall, preferring instead to institute nearly $1,000 in mandatory fees.

Thursday, he reversed course, joining the presidents of Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University in presenting plans for an “economic recovery surcharge” to a regents’ subcommittee.

UA students probably will still see a $1,000 hike in the cost of attending UA this fall, but it will be in a tuition surcharge – on top of the nearly 10 percent tuition hike already approved in December.

NAU students can expect a surcharge of about $435, President John Haeger said. ASU President Michael Crow did not give an estimate at the meeting.

Complete details of each president’s proposal are due to the regents Friday to give the public time to review them before a public tuition hearing at 5 p.m. April 20 at the three campuses.

Thursday, the three presidents gave rough outlines of unprecedented midyear tuition increases necessary to help make up for massive state cuts this year.

Arizona’s universities saw a $141 million cut in their $1 billion state appropriation this school year; UA bore $77 million of that.

The presidents defined “surcharge” as meaning “temporary,” but conceded the surcharge could continue through 2014 under some predictions about Arizona’s flagging economy.

Undergraduate students opposed the lifting of the “tuition cap” that limits tuition to the top of the bottom one-third of the top 50 public universities nationwide.

“Any proposed tuition surcharges or fees . . . the students feel the direct impact of those (after bearing) the direct impact of the cuts that have already happened at the universities,” said Student Regent David Martinez III.

“I’m really afraid of the precedent this is setting. This is exactly what the legislative leadership wants,” he added. “The state cuts us and (will say) that’s OK because the students will step forward and pick up the tab.”

Graduate students, on the other hand, supported a tuition surcharge over fee increases, because about 40 percent of them get tuition breaks, said Stephen Bieda III, the president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council. Fees cannot be waived for any student.

The three presidents said their plans probably will include extra fees specific to expensive programs such as health care and engineering.

Martinez asked the presidents to put aside at least 20 percent of the surcharge for financial aid and also to include a “sunset provision” in their proposals.

Shelton said a $1,000 per student surcharge would net about $20 million for UA, after setting aside 20 percent for financial aid.

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