Tuition hike likely at ASU due to state's woes - East Valley Tribune: News

Tuition hike likely at ASU due to state's woes

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Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2008 5:41 pm | Updated: 12:09 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

ASU students might soon join in the cries for financial rescue as the state's deflated economy threatens to swell the price of their education.

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The cost of an Arizona State University education is expected to continue to increase for the next school year, but different students will be paying different rates depending on when they enrolled and what they study. GRAPHIC BY Ryan Gabrielson, Scott Kirchhofer/TRIBUNE, SOURCE: ASU

The Arizona Board of Regents is unlikely to provide much relief when it sets next year's tuition and fees in December. Lawmakers are poised to slice untold millions from higher-education funding to help eliminate the state's budget shortfall, projected to be more than $1 billion.

If that happens, several regents said there are no desirable solutions for the three public universities' money trouble.

"If the state doesn't do it, do you put it on the backs of the students?" said Fred Boice, the board's president. "Or do you just deny students the opportunity? Gosh, boy, I don't want to do that."

Arizona State University President Michael Crow is asking the regents to approve a 5 percent, or $280 per year, tuition increase for continuing students and 10 percent, or $588 per year, for incoming students.

On top of those, Crow proposes charging upperclassmen in specific programs higher tuition or additional fees.

In-state undergraduate students in the design, engineering, nursing and business colleges - nearly 10,000 in all - would pay higher tuition than their peers. The bill for law students would jump by $2,000, to $11,250 a year. These programs are more expensive for ASU to operate, university officials say.

More than a dozen graduate programs would charge hundreds, some of them thousands, of additional dollars in fees.

Multiple student groups have endorsed raising tuition, though not as much as Crow wants.

ASU's undergraduate student government - which a year ago demanded a tuition freeze - last week announced that it supports a 3 percent increase.

The State Press editorial board backs the 5 percent increase for continuing students. "The last thing the universities, ASU in particular, need is less money, especially not for the benefit of a popular political statement," the student newspaper said in an editorial. [*NOTE: This information was corrected. An earlier version of the story indicated the student newspaper board supported the same percentage increase as the student government.]

But student opinion is hardly unanimous. Those enrolled in the College of Design, who would pay an extra $600 under Crow's proposal, grumbled about other mandatory costs, such as buying easels, paper and drawing tools.

"With what we have to spend now on supplies, it wouldn't be too beneficial," Adriana Regalado, a freshman studying interior design, said of the tuition proposal. She paid $200 for her supplies alone this semester.

That's only a fraction of the nearly $2,500 that Derek Bilte, a senior majoring in urban planning, estimates he has spent on class projects the past three years. Bilte said he works a fast-food job to cover such costs.

"Mom and Dad are helping as much as they can," he said.

Bilte and his partners on a class project were debating Friday whether to divvy up the $90 bill to print posters in color.

Black-and-white prints would save money, he said, but could hurt their grade.

The regents hope they don't have to make similar decisions for the university system.

In June, state lawmakers cut higher-education funding by $50 million, with $22 million coming from ASU. Republican budget leaders in the Legislature are now working to strip $56 million that students paid in tuition to shrink the state's shortfall.

The regents must decide whether to require more cash from university students to compensate for future cuts, which they have done repeatedly.

ASU's tuition and fees have nearly tripled this decade. In 2000, new freshmen paid $2,300 a year. Crow's proposal would ask freshmen to pay $6,200.

Dennis DeConcini, a regent and former U.S. senator, said he expects to argue and vote against higher student costs.

"I'm going to listen, to try to listen, with an open mind," DeConcini said of the next round of tuition discussions.

However, DeConcini said the situation appears so dire that he lobbied a former colleague now on President-elect Barack Obama's transition team to shift a portion of the federal bailout package to college students.

"Financial aid would be one of the places that would be easy for the Obama administration and Congress to put money in, because they already do that through all the grant programs and loan programs," he said.

Regardless, the federal Pell Grant program is suffering its own budget shortfall, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Gov. Janet Napolitano has attempted to shield the public universities from major cuts. But the governor's support cannot protect them if the state's economic woes continue to deepen.

"Every indication is that there may need to be further cuts," Jeanine L'Ecuyer, a Napolitano spokeswoman, said of higher education.

And further cuts require the regents to contemplate higher tuition, reducing enrollment and shrinking programs, said Boice, the board president.

"Boy, that's no fun at all," he said.

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