Tuesday, March 2, 2010

UA Prez Shelton at Tuition Hearing: "The UA Has Sustained a $100 Million Cut"

Posted By on Tue, Mar 2, 2010 at 6:57 PM

For senior architecture major Marie Taylor, $2,000 goes a long way.

An additional $2,000 is the amount Taylor, a Colorado native, will have to pay if she wants to finish her degree at the UA next year.

“I pay university tuition, have to buy all my own materials and then on top of that I have to pay an out of state differential,” she said. “The middle class gets left out of the loop.”

Numerous students at the Arizona Board of Regents tuition hearing Monday night voiced similar concerns in regards to the Arizona university system’s proposed tuition increase.

Arizona resident Jonathan Garcia, a Public Management and

Policy junior, said college tuition is already a problem for students from low income families.

“Beginning from my biggest problem, both my parents are disabled,” he said. “Not only is tuition an issue for me, I have to worry about personal needs.”

Garcia’s tuition will increase by $1,450 dollars for the 2010-2011 fiscal year. An increase that has him worried about the future of low-income students in higher education.

“I want to break this trend in my family and be one of the successful students who can inspire others,” he said.

Under the new tuition plan, the base undergraduate tuition for Arizona residents would increase to $7,224 for undergraduates and to $8,014 for graduate students.

Tuition for nonresident undergraduates would increase to $22,983 and to $23,276 for nonresident graduate students.

UA president Robert Shelton said the tuition increase is due to severe cuts passed down from the Arizona Legislature.

“We had planned for and accepted a $40 million reduction in state funds,” said Shelton. “In reality the UA has sustained a $100 million cut—a 25 percent reduction, more than double what we had anticipated.”

Despite the financially dark times that the University finds itself in, Shelton said the average tuition paid by Arizona residents is currently $1,977, one-third of the full tuition and fees.

In addition, he stressed that for Arizona residents there has been no change on debt after graduation, a little over half of UA graduates remain debt free.

The small conference room in Harvill where Shelton, Regent Rick Myers (sitting in for the absent Regent Dennis DeConcini), student representatives, and registered speakers addressed a row of video monitors quickly filled up past capacity in anticipation of the tuition hearing.

If there was one thing everyone could agree upon it was that the current financial crisis stems from a lack of support for higher education at the state legislature.

“I understand that the financial problems of the university are due to state funding,” said Associated Students of the UA president Chris Nagata. “The UA is hurting but so too are the families of Arizonans. “The voices of students are being overshadowed by financial concerns."

Nagata proposed that the university increase financial aid to an amount equivalent to the increase of tuition—20 percent.

He urged the university administration and the board of regents to consider a joint document on fees presented by ASUA and the Graduate and Professional Student Council.

David Lopez Negrete, vice president of GPSC, said graduate students are concerned about certain fees being too high.

“Essentially what we are asking for is for the administration and regents to bear in mind that we just want to be met halfway,” he said.

GPSC representative Lucy Blaney-Laible spoke on behalf of her constituents in the College of Humanities.
“If passed, the fee increases would obligate each student to pay roughly $500 on the first day of the semester, long before he or she has even been paid for teaching or research,” she said.

“For those of us who work as GATs and GRAs, the overall fee increase alone would represent about a 6 percent pay cut.”

Blaney proposed five objectives to address the concerns of graduate students in the college of Humanities.

Most importantly, she proposed: “Fees applied to graduate assistants in teaching and graduate research assistants need to be included in graduate tuition remission.”

David Jones, a member of the executive board of ASUA South, said graduate students at UA South would pay the same increase in tuition as their main campus counterparts, but they don’t have access to the same funding.

“By increasing tuition too much to fast we may compromise our competitive advantage by increased barriers to higher education that may result in lost opportunities,” he said.

In an interview after the hearing, Shelton said he would have to double check the figures on graduate student tuition at UA South before he could confirm or deny Jones’ statement.

Jones recommended that the increase to UA South students should only be 50 percent of the proposed $500 and that it be temporary for only five years. In addition, he urged that the increase should be phased over a period of two semesters.

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