Becky Pallack at the Star has been doing a good job on her Campus Correspondent blog highlighting the fact that undergrads at UA are facing a tuition and fee increase next year of nearly $2,000 (up from the nearly $550 tuition and fee increase they had this year and the $766 tacked-on “tuition surcharge”), but for some reason, this news has not made the printed paper, so folks may not know that they should be concerned.
I guess if you don’t mind going hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt or if your parents are rich enough to foot the bill, you have no concern. But if, like a few students I know, you will have to drop out of school because you know carrying $17,000 in debt (see bottom of this post) is a really bad idea and you’re caught in the financial-aid middle of parents making too much money for you to qualify for grants or need-based scholarships but not enough money to pay for their mortgage, car payments, health care, job retraining, etc. and cover the rumored hike – you may want to pay attention. And, for goodness sake, launch a massive protest.
The president’s proposals for saving their universities via tuition increases are due to the Arizona Board of Regents this Friday and will be made public at noon here. According to Pallack’s blog here, here and most importantly here, tuition will be up to at least $9,000 in 2011-12, which, one may guess, means it might jump to $8,000 for next year. That doesn’t count the hundreds of dollars of fees or the “temporary” surcharge, which two of the best unpaid investigative reporters in town do a bang-up job of reporting on – and revealing the nasty little secrets about – at The Desert Lamp here and here, respectively.
The increase may actually be worse than rumors. According to an anonymous professor at one of Arizona’s universities, for every $200 in tuition increases, based on UA’s current number of students and a financial-aid mix I don’t fully understand, the UA gets about $4 million in revenue. Since the state cut nearly $100 million from its funding of UA in the past two years and UA says they’ve absorbed $40 million through mergers and program cuts (see UA organizational chart before the 2-year Transformation Process and after), that leaves about $60 million UA has to raise through additional revenue. Using the figures above, that means tuition would have to increase about $3,000 per student over the next 2 years, if enrollment stays static. Of course, UA assumes an increase in enrollment – but with a huge tuition hike and the job situation in the toilet, maybe they won’t see an enrollment increase. (And please, do not be impressed with the university presidents saying they will also increase financial aid when they hike tuition. Their definition of “financial aid” includes loans, which, as anyone paying on a mortgage will tell you, is debt, not aid. Grants and merit or need-based scholarships are aid – meaning help. Loans are “help” you have to pay for, with interest, for a long time after you graduate.)
Keep in mind that UA has increased tuition and fees more each year of the past decade. UA officials blame this on the state’s lack of funding, although one could rightly argue that building fancy rec centers, dorms and hiring a VP for Health Affairs at $650,000 (and adding all these financial perks) could also have something to do with it. Looking back a couple years, I reported that UA, which rightly states that its tuition is still at the top of the bottom one-third of tuitions among peer universities, nonetheless has tuition hikes that are higher than average in the nation. Keep in mind also, that UA stands alone among the three universities in not offering some version of a fixed tuition or guaranteed tuition plan for students already on campus.
So, worried yet? Angry? You should be – and not just at the legislature for hacking their support of education (which does indeed deserve some outrage). Maybe you should also be a little miffed that UA is making it look like they care about students by proposing to offering lower tuition for degrees off the main campus but ignoring the needs of the nearly 39,000 undergrads currently on campus by jacking up their tuition. How about asking the cadre of vice presidents/provosts making more than $200K to take a salary cut (or at least institute a salary freeze) so students will have a lower tuition hike.
My prediction for Friday’s proposals is this: NAU’s John Haeger, who was the first to design – and stick with – a four-year-guaranteed tuition plan, will be creative about keeping tuition low. Michael Crow up at ASU will come up with some wiz-bang proposal that stops just short of buying Bolivia and building a new campus there, but will still find a way to increase enrollment through increasing tuition less than UA and will stick with some version of his piloted fixed tuition program. And UA’s Robert N. Shelton, emboldened by his faculty and their unspoken-in-polite-company belief that UA is Arizona’s true research university, that NAU should handle all the “low-end” undergraduate programs and that ASU should be Arizona’s “outreach” university, will eloquently propose that UA hike their tuition to at least $7,800 with proposed fees of at least $500 annually. Neither he nor Crow will rescind the temporary tuition surcharge of last year; I’m not sure about Haeger. If the student regent – or anyone on the board of regents – has the guts to try to stop this, as happened last year, no doubt another all-night, behind-closed-doors meeting with result in a flip-flop and…. a tuition increase.
Students and the public will have one chance and one chance only to comment on the proposed hikes: at the Arizona Board of Regents annual tuition hearing, March 1 from 5 p.m. ‐7 p.m. Comments are heard on a first‐come, first‐served basis, rotating through the three universities and can be no more than 3-minutes long. There are three places at UA to access the hearings: the Harvill Building, Room 211 on the Main Campus; in the Public Meeting Room, Room 203 at the Sierra Vista Campus; and at the UA Science and Technology Park,Building 9040, Room 2270 . Final tuition and fees for next year will be set at the board’s March 11 meeting at UA – but no one can comment at the meeting (although you can hold signs of protest quietly).