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Regents approve lower tuition surcharge

Citizen Staff Writer



University of Arizona students will have to open their wallets a little wider this fall – but not as far as they feared.

The Arizona Board of Regents on Thursday approved Robert N. Shelton’s request for a temporary tuition surcharge, but at a lower rate than the UA president initially proposed.

Shelton decreased the UA surcharge from $1,100 for all enrollees to $766 for resident students and $966 for nonresidents.

Regents approved it by a 7-1 vote, with Student Regent David Martinez III voting no.

The surcharge – combined with the $545 tuition and fee increase approved in December – means in-state UA students will pay $6,842 next school year, a $1,310 increase over this year’s tuition. This represents the largest year-to-year dollar increase in tuition and fees in UA’s history.

Students from out of state will pay $22,251 instead of the $21,285 price tag approved in December.

A modified proposal from Arizona State University passed 6-2, with Martinez and Regent Robert Bulla voting no. A modified proposal from Northern Arizona University passed 7-1 with Martinez voting no.

ASU lowered its proposal from $1,200 for all students to $600 for residents and $800 for nonresidents, with an $80 health and wellness fee for all students. A regent motion, however, cut that to $510 for residents and $710 for nonresidents.

NAU’s proposal for a tuition surcharge of $350 for all students was approved for residents, but raised to $450 for nonresidents. Students who started on NAU’s guaranteed tuition plan will see no increase. All students there will be charged an information and technology fee of $72.

The surcharges will expire in one year. Of the revenue generated by their surcharges for need-based financial aid, NAU and UA will set aside 20 percent; ASU, 22 percent.

Shelton said UA’s surcharge will generate $18.7 million after $4.7 million is set aside for financial aid.

University presidents said Gov. Jan Brewer’s pledge of stimulus funding enabled them to lower proposed surcharges. Brewer announced she would give the universities maximum shares of the more than $1 billion in federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

About $830 million of the $1 billion is earmarked for K-12 and higher education. Brewer has discretion in dividing those funds, after federal requirements are met regarding backfilling a certain percentage of previous budget cuts.

University leaders had originally estimated about $225 million would be allocated to the state university system. After the meeting, Shelton said Brewer’s allocation is closer to $280 million of which 40 percent can be spent in fiscal 2010, beginning July 1.

The remaining 60 percent will be spent in fiscal 2011 – most of it to mitigate tuition increases, with a small percentage for “modernization and reform” required by the federal stimulus law.

Though lowered, the surcharges still amount to a midyear tuition increase for students, who opposed the fee no matter how small. A few dozen students showed up to silently protest the tuition increase, holding signs that read, “Do you value my future?” “No books for a year” and “Don’t turn away future teachers.”

UA political science sophomore Emily May appreciated that the surcharge was nearly halved but said it was small comfort.

“Everyone is going to have to start budgeting for more tuition, more tuition, then just cross our fingers,” she said. “Hopefully, it won’t get too high that I have to stop coming to school.”

Regent Fred DuVal, however, warned that more tuition increases and possible surcharges are likely.

“We’ve heard the message from the e-mails,” DuVal said. “And today is a response to the pain that exists with Arizona families. We get it, we heard it, but we haven’t avoided (increases). We’ve simply deferred a bigger price tag at the back end of the three-year stimulus.”

Modeling presented by the regents estimates that if state funding for the universities remains stagnant, UA would need to raise tuition about $600 in the 2010-11 academic year and then $2,799 for 2011-12 to fund expected increases in enrollment. The large increase between those years represents the “funding cliff” predicted when federal stimulus monies run out.

Brewer was at the meeting for about 20 minutes and gave a statement committing the money to the universities, saying she wanted it used specifically to mitigate tuition increases. In addition, the governor said the universities need to present plans by fall for new business models.

“The fact of the matter is once these federal dollars are used up, our university system will likely face another huge financial shortfall,” Brewer said. “Thus, you need to begin preparations immediately for the day that these federal dollars disappear.

“By this fall, I want to see a new business model that is accountable, predictable and affordable to taxpayers, parents and students.”

Tuition increases

Students OK’d in Dec. With surcharge

Resident undergraduates: $6,076 $6,842

Nonresident undergraduates: $21,285 $22,251

Resident graduates: $6,866 $7,632

Nonresident graduates: $21,578 $22,544

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