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Student group: Midyear tuition surcharge ‘absurd’

Statewide association says midyear move ‘absolutely absurd’

A statewide student advocacy group representing Arizona’s three public universities announced its opposition Wednesday to midyear tuition increases.

Presidents from the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University announced last week that budget realities have forced them to seek an “economic recovery surcharge” to make up for state budget cuts.

The charge would come in the form of temporary tuition and fees increases of $422 to $1,280, depending on the university. The presidents’ proposals would have to be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents later this month to be implemented.

UA President Robert N. Shelton is asking for a $1,100 annual surcharge that he said will be reviewed every year until the economy stabilizes.

The proposed increases are “absolutely absurd,” said Kendal Nystedt, Arizona Students’ Association vice chair.

Nystedt said the poor economy and job losses make it hard to afford higher tuition. In addition, raising tuition again after increases were approved in December “violates all notions of (tuition) predictability.”

ASA has pushed for predictable tuition for more than two years, earning victories at NAU and ASU, which have implemented variations of four-year guaranteed tuition plans.

UA resisted the “frozen tuition” model. But in December, after a contentious regents meeting in which the board cut Shelton’s proposed tuition increase of nearly 10 percent to less than 4 percent, late-night negotiations led to a guarantee that tuition would increase only 5 percent for continuing students, beginning in 2010.

Student Regent David Martinez III then brought the issue back to the table and reversed his vote, giving Shelton his 10 percent increase. Martinez cited the predictability guarantee as one reason for changing his vote.

Nystedt said ASA also opposes the tuition surcharge because it goes against the policy of setting tuition in December and “all the cards aren’t on the table.”

“The state is still in the middle of budget negotiations and passing an increase right now will let the state off the hook and put the burden on the students,” she said.

Knowing it faces a difficult task getting regents and presidents to step back from the economic surcharge, ASA will release options this weekend in advance of a regents’ public hearing on the proposed increases.

“We’ll release something that says we’re completely opposed to these hikes, but if you’re going to have them, here are student concerns you must take into account,” Nystedt said.

Interactive public hearings on the proposed increases will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday on each campus.

At UA’s Tucson campus, the meeting will be held in the South Ballroom of the Student Union. The UA South meeting will be at the Sierra Vista campus, Room PMR-230 of the Administration Building.

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