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Students ask regents to delay midyear tuition hike

Citizen Staff Writer



The attendance at the Arizona Board of Regents public hearing on a midyear tuition increase was underwhelming Monday night, with fewer than 100 students and community members attending.

Presidents at the state’s three public universities are proposing temporary surcharges ranging from $422 at Northern Arizona University to $1,200 at Arizona State University, in addition to a handful of specialized fees at all three universities.

They say the extra revenue is needed to make up for state budget cuts of $190 million to the state university system since July.

Regents and university presidents heard about an hour of testimony from students at the main and branch campuses of the University of Arizona, ASU and NAU via a video conference held on all campuses. Regents will vote on the surcharge proposals at their April 30 meeting at UA.

Overall, students opposed the surcharges, saying the midyear hike was unacceptable because regents already approved increases for the fall in December and another increase would force students to halt their education midstream.

“All we’re asking is to wait eight months for the normal tuition setting process,” said UA student body President Tommy Bruce. “We have to find a balance. We need to ensure we can give everybody an opportunity to get a degree.”

Kelsey LoDuca said she came to the meeting representing not only herself but also students who are working multiple jobs or attending night classes and thus couldn’t attend.

“I’m one of the lucky ones. I only have to work one job,” said LoDuca, a junior political science student. “But if this passes, I’ll have to get another job, which leaves me to think, when will I go to school? When will I study?”

Associated Students of the University of Arizona Senator Bryan Baker, also a junior, reminded regents that the students protesting the tuition hikes “were not protesting for the sake of protesting.”

“We want to see the (December tuition setting) process followed,” Baker said. “I work three jobs, I’m involved on campus, I pay for college 100 percent by myself and it is too soon to raise tuition $1,100 on me when it was already raised once.”

Although university presidents have said they will set aside between 17 percent and 20 percent of the revenue generated from the surcharge if it is approved, Katie Hammond said she’d heard that promise before and it isn’t always kept.

“I lived through the 2003 tuition hike, and I almost didn’t graduate because of it,” said Hammond, a civil engineer. “There was the promise of loans, of grants, but that wasn’t the case. Nearly everyone I talked to had a decrease in financial aid. I had to come up with two grand in three months.”

That year, regents hiked tuition 39 percent, or $1,000 year.

Hammond said her father lost his job during that time and she appealed for more aid, but her appeal was denied.

“I was fortunate, if you can call it that, that there was a death in the family and we could get money for my schooling from that,” Hammond said, adding that without that tragic incident, she would not have received her degree.

ASU West and Polytechnic students said they supported the $1,200 surcharged proposed by President Michael Crow because without it, Crow has said he might have to close those campuses.

Representatives of UA’s Graduate and Professional Student Council said they supported the $1,100 surcharge proposed by President Robert N. Shelton in lieu of a similar increase in mandatory fees, because tuition can be waived for graduate students, but fees cannot.

If approved, UA tuition and mandatory fees next year for in-state undergraduate students will rise to $7,176. This year, those costs are $5,531, although regents had approved a $545 increase in December, bringing the cost of attending UA to $6,076 for in-state undergraduates.

According to Shelton’s proposal, the UA surcharge – which will be reviewed annually if approved – will generate nearly $27 million in revenue after setting aside 20 percent for financial aid. Increases to current tuition at the College of Medicine and the College of Nursing will generate about $2.5 million, after setting aside 17 to 20 percent for financial aid, his proposal stated.

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