ABOR, Day 1: The conflict between tuition and financial aid

A rather thin meeting in terms of content, but worthwhile nonetheless.

In the fashion that has become so popular as of late, the Arizona Board of Regents decided the “blame others first, do something later” approach to Arizona’s budget problems is right up their alley.

  • So what do you want? Lower tuition or more financial aid?

About halfway through Thursday’s Regents meeting, ABOR Chief Financial Officer Sandy Woodley and Regent Robert Bulla entered in a fundamental argument exchange with one another. After filleting the State of Arizona for not supplying the universities with enough money to run quality institutions, the Board switched gears (well not really, but kind of), with Regent Fred Boice saying, “I don’t think tuition should be impacted by family income, big or small.” The job of worrying about paying for college, he said, lies with financial aid.

Let that sink in for a second. No matter whether you prefer lower tuition or more financial aid help, that is a striking statement for Boice to have made. While family income and the like perhaps shouldn’t hold the entire flag of schools’ tuition amounts, to not acknowledge it as a prevalent factor seems either foolish or arrogant, probably both.

Woodley responded to Boice’s statement with a reasonable retort, saying that if tuition is too high, students won’t be able to go to college because they will at least be convinced by the tuition dollars that they cannot go. This seems closer to the reality of the matter. It’s hard to believe that there’s anyone who, when they’re looking over colleges with their parents, doesn’t look at tuition and include that as a factor in their ultimate decision. I don’t know about you, but I never looked at the University of Arizona’s financial aid department as a sophomore in high school and said to myself, “Well then, check out this financial aid. This school’s a winner!” I don’t think most people did either.

In any case, Boice’s outlook on tuition has been somewhat of a rallying cry for advocates of raising tuition. The logic goes, “Well, we’ll raise tuition, but at the same time, we’ll lower the requirements for financial aid, so it will all work out. And those who can pay the tuition will. Those who cannot will be helped out by more financial aid.

For what it’s worth, Arizona State University President Michael Crow said that 17 percent of ASU freshmen are going to school this year with a zero cost of attendance. No such information was volunteered by UA President Robert Shelton.

It’s not such a bad plan…if it works. Considering the past actions of UA officials, though, I’m willing to bet history is just dying to repeat itself. And that’s not a good thing.

Seriously, though, can you imagine a UA campus where the in-state tuition is around $10,000 and out-of-state is around $30,000? Well, you’re going to have to. It will become our reality very soon—like, next year. Want to change it? Maybe you’d like to show up at the Regents’ March 11-12 meeting, where they will set tuition.

For some good reading, check out this report at the ABOR meeting concerning student financial aid. A few things in there that are relevant to the current conflicting relationship between those wanting lower tuition and those wanting more financial aid:

Changes in Aid to Students:

More Students Receive Aid: Over the last 6 years, the number of undergraduate students receiving aid increased by 4,065, or 15.9%, while the number of minority undergraduate students receiving aid increased by 29.2%. During this same period, undergraduate enrollment increased by 12.2%.

Debt: Over the last 6 years, the amount of debt at graduation has increased significantly. Undergraduate debt is up 12% from $17,061 to $19,110. Graduate debt has increased 10.8% from $32,672 to $36,190. The number of students with debt at graduation increased: a 6.5% increase in undergraduates and a 38.4% increase in graduate students.

  • Gov. Jan Brewer approves of universities’ plans

Brewer said she was impressed by the universities plans to carry out their “2020 Vision,” although she may have meant the kind of “impressed” that you tell your friend’s mom when they have you over and you eat their mystery sprout casserole. Browse over the 39-page document on “2020” if you wish. Otherwise you can just read our summary:

-Blah blah blah, more degrees

-Blah blah blah, higher tuition

-Blah blah blah, more consolidation

-Conclusion: Blah blah toilet paper degree quality…blah

Got it? Good.

  • Recycled statistics

Also presented at the meeting were enrollment and graduation statistics that seem awfully familiar…hmmm. These people must be pleased…wherever they are.

Well, that’s about it for Day 1 of ABOR. Check back tomorrow for reaction and analysis to Day 2. The meeting will be rather short, but hey, look at the bright side. We get to check out ASU’s Strategic Business Plan! Or this, if you wish.

-Truth be told, the March ABOR tuition-setting meeting will be the action-packed one.

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One response to “ABOR, Day 1: The conflict between tuition and financial aid

  1. Interesting run down. Thank you.

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