KNAU and Arizona News
11:12 am
Wed December 14, 2005

Legislator tackles tuition hikes

Phoenix – The issue is subsidization. Figures from the regents show that more than one dollar out of every four paid by students goes back out in the form of financial aid to others. That includes not only scholarships based on need but also tution waivers which are granted for various reasons, like good high school grades. That upsets state Rep. Chuck Gray. He noted there have been a series of sharp increases in the last four years, with tuition for Arizona residents now topping $4,400 a year.

(This is the college basically redistributing wealth. And that's a socialist approach to that. If you want to
have fundraisers or go to foundations or charities or those kind of organizations that want to put up money for those to assist them to go to college, that's fine.
But don't raise tuition on student A so you can take part of that money to student B.)

Gray said the tuition hikes probably don't hurt those with money. And those at the bottom end of the income scale have the difference made up with additional financial aid.

(But if you're middle class you can't afford it anymore. And, basically, this is an assault on middle class. If you put it down as low as possible than more people can afford it.)

Jack Jewett, a member of the Board of Regents, said he and his colleagues did not want to hike tuition but needed the cash to operate the universities. And they earmarked some of the extra cash to increased financial aid to ensure that students were not locked out of higher education due to need. But he said lawmakers made the moves necessary.

(To me, it would go a long way if the legislature would designate, as almost every other state does, a significant funding for financial aid from the general
fund.)

Jewett said the record shows that Arizona, on a per capita basis, is dead last in providing financial aid to its state universities. He said if legislators want
to preclude future tuition hikes -- and take more financial aid unnecessary -- they will boost state aid. Gray countered that the universities are not the only ones demanding a larger share of state tax dollas. He said lawmakers face many demands for funds, like mandated increases in aid to public schools and the indigent health care system. Then there are requests for additional dollars to provide state-financed full-day kindergarten programs at more schools. Gray's proposal also will get no backing from the group that represents the students he said he is trying to help. Maceo Brown, executive director of the Arizona Students Association, said he doesn't believe the middle class is being hurt.

(Our tuition is still very comparable, still one of the lowest ones in the United States. So I don't think anyone is doing anything along the lines of trying to
push anyone out.)

And regent Ernest Calderon said the new aid structure also means more members of the middle class qualify for at least partial financial aid.

(So it really isn't the middle class that's being hurt. It's probably the lower end of the gentry.)

Calderon, a lawyer, said that probably includes people like him who can afford to pay higher tuition -- including some money to ensure that those less fortunate also have a chance at a higher education.

In Phoenix, for Arizona Public Radio this is Howard Fischer.