The following is a guest report written by Will Ferguson at Monday’s tuition hearing at the Harvill Building. Ferguson is currently an intern at the Tucson Weekly and is the former Arizona Daily Wildcat assistant news editor and administration beat writer.
Also, check out The Mad Fee Party’s official statement here, at the Desert Lamp.
By Will Ferguson
To call Monday night’s Arizona Board of Regents tuition hearing a packed house would be a serious understatement.
The small conference room in Harvill—where UA president Robert Shelton, Regent Rick Meyers (sitting in for the absent Regent Dennis DeConcini), student representatives and registered speakers addressed a row of video monitors—quickly filled up past capacity.
Forty-one registered speakers waited their turn to speak. Many of them had to suffice with a letter to the Regents due to time constraints on the hearing.
Two additional rooms were opened in order to accommodate the multitude of students, faculty and community members who wanted to hear first-hand the reasoning behind a proposed tuition increase—a process that University of Arizona President Shelton said “has been transparent throughout the discussion.
- Just another chance to blame the legislature for all the UA’s problems
“We had planned for and accepted a $40 million reduction in state funds,” Shelton said. “In reality, the UA has sustained a 100 million dollar cut, a 25 percent reduction—more than double what we had anticipated.
“We cannot further diminish the quality of the UA.”
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 by $2,000 to $22,983 for undergraduates and to $23, 276 for graduate students.
Shelton said the average cost of attendance 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, and a little over half of UA graduates remain debt free.
- “The voices of students are being overshadowed”
If there was one thing that everyone at the hearing 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 University of Arizona 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,” he said.
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 that “fees applied to graduate assistants in teaching and graduate research assistants need to be included in graduate tuition remission.”
- Shelton: Um…I’ll get back to you on that
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; however, they don’t have access to the same funding.
“By increasing tuition too much too 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, President Shelton said he would have to double-check the figures on graduate student tuition at UA South before he could confirm or deny Jones’s 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.