Citizen Staff Writer
Reason prevailed Friday when the Arizona Board of Regents reversed its earlier bizarre vote singling out the University of Arizona.
Now UA will get the 9.5 percent tuition increase requested by UA President Robert N. Shelton, the regents decided in a 6-3 vote.
Thursday, regents had voted 5-4 in an inexplicable rebuke to UA, telling Shelton to make do with a 3.1 percent tuition increase – even as they granted increases of 11.6 percent at Northern Arizona University and nearly 11 percent at Arizona State University.
We had criticized Shelton’s original proposal for a 13.1 percent increase as too high. Then he reduced it to 9.5 percent – lower than the levels approved Thursday for ASU and NAU.
When regents voted to slash Shelton’s reduced proposal to 3.1 percent, even students recognized the regents’ folly.
And when college students criticize a tuition increase as too low, something clearly is amiss.
We’re relieved and heartened that the regents came to their senses on this important issue.
But we remain mystified by the initial action, especially by Regent Dennis DeConcini of Tucson.
The former U.S. senator led the charge to limit increases to 3.1 percent at all three universities.
Yet even after regents voted down his suggestion on behalf of ASU and NAU, he pushed for the smaller sum for his hometown university.
And Friday, DeConcini expressed disgust when the issue was reconsidered and UA’s request was granted.
His acrimonious attitude toward the UA is inappropriate and ill-conceived.
His preferred 3.1 percent increase would have cost UA more than $5 million in tuition revenue, resulting in cut classes, lecturers and adjunct faculty.
Significantly, the vote urged by DeConcini on Thursday also stymied Shelton’s effort to provide some tuition predictability at UA.
Arizona’s other universities already have systems that limit the annual tuition increases a student will face following initial enrollment.
UA wanted to follow suit, setting a 5 percent limit on annual increases in the four to five years between a freshman’s enrollment and graduation.
While tuition could increase more for the next freshman class, resident undergraduates already enrolled could count on the annual limit.
Fortunately, regents now have OK’d that provision for predictability.
Shelton is working hard to improve conditions at UA. And while we don’t always agree with his approach, we appreciate his sincere dedication to Arizona’s first university.
Regents likewise should have our universities’ best interests at heart. We hope the revised action Friday illustrates their renewed support.
Arizona regents should have all three universities’ best interests at heart, as most demonstrated Friday.