Arizona Universities Vote to Raise Tuition

Mar 11, 2010 8:40pm

ABC News on Campus reporter Brian McBride blogs: Adding to the rising costs of tuition at colleges all over the nation, the Arizona Board of Regents voted Thursday to increase tuition for all students at three public universities. At at the University of Arizona there will be a 20 percent hike, at Northern Arizona University 16 percent, and at Arizona State University 19 percent. For Amber Richie, a sophomore at the University of Arizona, in Tucson, the hikes are adding to a debt that is already at $8,000. “I’m very upset about this because we do pay enough as it is, and personally, I feel like I’m being milked for an education.” The rise in costs only “put more stress on students, and it’s not fair, we’re going through a lot of stress as it is.” Above, students at Arizona State University protested tuition increases last week as part of the March 4 Day of Action to Defend Education.
Officials at the schools said they had no other choice than to raise tuition.  The state of Arizona continues to make cuts to offset its $3 billion-plus budget deficit, in turn leaving universities to increase their tuition in order to offset cuts to their budgets.
Johnny Cruz, spokesperson for University of Arizona, in Tucson, told ABC News on Campus, “The proposed tuition and fees for next year will specifically address the unprecedented budget cuts that the UA has received and the reality that temporary stimulus funding is expiring soon.”
UA had initially proposed a 31 percent tuition hike, the sharpest of the three schools. 
“We have experienced a loss of more than $100 million in state funding, and responding to that exclusively through cuts in academic programs and financial aid would compromise the quality of a UA degree,” added Cruz.
The cuts have already been devastating to Arizona State, in Tempe, as faculty jobs were lost and furloughs were implemented. 
“The university recovered more than $45 million of the $104 million state funding cut through eliminating more than 1,200 jobs, closing programs and consolidating schools,” said Virgil Renzulli, vice president of public affairs for ASU. “The only option for recovering the remaining shortfall in state funds is tuition.” Amber Richie is not the only student feeling the pinch of tuition, with hikes that will only make it worse.
For three years ASU student Jessica Gallagher, 22, battled the school tooth-and-nail to pay in-state tuition. As an out-of-state student, her tuition was roughly $20,000; in-state, $6,800.  
After taking up two jobs to prove she was financially independent from her parents and therefore could qualify for residency in Arizona, the ASU board of appeals finally granted her wish.
“I can’t even express how close I was to dropping out of school,” Gallagher told ABC News on Campus. “It was such an overwhelming burden to prove that I was financially independent.”
Sam Childress, 17, from Sandy, Utah, who’s planning to major in physical therapy at Arizona State next year, was not happy to learn about the school’s proposed tuition hike for incoming freshmen.
“It was a pretty bad reaction,” Childress said. “I mean tuition there is pretty expensive now and since it’s going to go up, it will be harder for my parents to pay for it.”
Added to the burden of tuition hikes is the fact that in Arizona, according to the U.S. Education Department’s numbers from 2007 (the most recent available), Arizona has the nation’s highest overall default rate on federal student loans – 9.8 percent.
“The more loans they’re taking out, the more likely they’re not going to be able to pay them back,” Deanne Loonin, director of the student-loan borrower-assistance project at the National Consumer Law Center in Boston, told ABC News on Campus.
“Higher costs obviously makes it harder for students to pay for college, especially for students who’ve exhausted their federal loans,” she said.
For Gallagher, she said she’s lucky to finally pay in-state tuition, but still feels remorseful for those forced to pay out of state prices.
“In all honesty, unless you get a loan, a lot of people can’t pay $20,000 a year just for school,” Gallagher said. “I mean that’s almost impossible.”

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