The University of Arizona wants to increase base tuition and fees for Arizona students by $1,790 next year, a 22 percent hike.
If the proposal is accepted by the Arizona Board of Regents, the UA will have nearly doubled tuition and mandatory fees in six years as it uses more tuition revenue to cover increasing expenses and lost state support.
The increase would raise $22 million in extra tuition revenue for the UA. Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed a $67 million budget cut for the UA next year, and state Senate leaders have proposed a $92 million cut. The UA would make up the balance of the deficit through reduced spending and use of federal stimulus dollars.
Students would pay just over $10,000 next year, up from about $8,200 this year. Students also pay additional tuition and fees for particular programs, classes and services.
UA President Robert Shelton's plan was announced Friday, the last day of students' spring break. The campus was empty.
Students returning from spring break will learn about the proposal and scramble to plan for the bigger bill next year, said UA student president Emily Fritze.
"I think students understand the budget realities," she said, "but it is incredibly concerning and disappointing to have continued tuition increases every single year."
Students sent 500 emails and made 200 phone calls to state lawmakers this week, and groups plan to rally on campus Wednesday, said Elma Delic, a UA student and president of the Arizona Students' Association.
Quick Facts About Tuition Hikes
Why is tuition going up?
Since fiscal year 2008, the state has cut about $100 million - about 25 percent - of its funding for the UA, and more cuts are coming.
The UA absorbed some of the reduction by cutting 600 jobs, merging programs and departments to increase efficiency, offering fewer and larger classes, reducing maintenance, and cutting library acquisitions, among other changes.
Additionally, enrollment is growing, employee benefits cost more and utility costs have increased.
Does tuition go up every year?
In 24 of the past 25 years, the Arizona Board of Regents has approved a tuition increase at the UA.
In the past five years, increases at the UA have ranged from 6 percent to 24 percent.
It can be hard to plan ahead because tuition rates often depend on the state budget, but the UA's official strategic plan forecasts tuition to be $11,400 in 2016 and $13,900 in 2020.
What has the UA done to ease the burden on students?
The UA has increased spending on financial aid.
The UA reports that the average net price - the tuition paid after subtracting financial aid - was $2,662 last year. That's a 61 percent discount from last year's tuition of $6,855.
The UA also is offering degree programs that cost less by allowing students to take one or more years of classes at a community college.
However, the UA also has more needy students, the average student debt is growing, and students trying to work their way through college must work more hours to pay tuition.
Could tuition go up more next year if the state cuts the university's budget deeper?
Yes. "If faced with additional state budget cuts, the regents may have to consider tuition hikes beyond what is included in Friday's proposals," regents chair Anne Mariucci said in a media statement.
Shelton said that if the Senate plan passes, the UA might be able to buy time by using more one-time federal stimulus funds, or the UA could borrow money, or there could be more job cuts.
As a last resort, he said, the UA could trim financial aid.
The UA also could cut more programs, increase fees and increase the percentage of the student body that pays the higher out-of-state tuition.
How does the cost at UA compare to other schools?
UA tuition is comparable to peer schools such as UCLA, the University of Washington and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; however, UA tuition is higher than the national average. Unlike other states, Arizona has a constitutional mandate that higher education be as nearly free as possible.
How can you share your opinion?
The regents will hold a hearing at 5 p.m. March 28 at the UA in advance of their tuition vote April 7-8.
You also can contact the regents:
• By email at peggy.martin @azregents.edu
• By mail to the Arizona Board of Regents, 2020 N. Central Ave., Suite 230, Phoenix, AZ 85004
• By fax at (602) 229-2555.
Contact reporter Becky Pallack at firstname.lastname@example.org or 807-8012. On StarNet: Read Becky Pallack's blog on higher education in Tucson at go.azstarnet.com/campuscorrespondent