PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Tuesday that large tuition rate hikes at the state’s universities were unfair for both parents and students.
“There is just something – I’m not an economist, I’m not an educator – but there is something fundamentally wrong with a system where you have to go and hock in order to be able to send your kid to college,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes.
Brnovich’s office filed a suit against the Arizona Board of Regents last week, arguing that hikes as high as 370 percent went against the Arizona Constitution, which specified education should be as affordable as possible.
“I kept hearing all the time, the last couple of years, ‘Oh my god, can you believe how expensive [Arizona State University] is? Oh my god, I just sent my daughter to [the University of Arizona] and tuition is this much’ and I was shocked,” he said.
“When I went to ASU in the late ‘80s, tuition was like $625. I worked a part-time job, my mom helped me pay my tuition, but it was enough that, if you were a middle-class kid here in Arizona, you could afford it and you didn’t go $60,000 in debt.”
The Board of Regents said Monday that it was disappointed to learn of the lawsuit because, according to Chairman Bill Ridenour, the “suit is full of attacks, but offers no constructive remedies. The justice [Brnovich] seeks will not, and should not, be found at the courthouse.”
Ridenour said the tuition hikes were necessary because the Arizona Legislature cut millions from university budgets, but Brnovich said he didn’t buy that.
He said the state has cut $390 million since 2018, but “if you look at what the universities have made up in tuition over the same time period, they’ve charged more than $1.5 billion in increased tuition, so they’ve more than made up for the budget cuts.”
Brnovich said the lawsuit was designed to get answers from the schools, specifically as to where they are spending money and the process used to set tuition rates.
Under the current system, the regents examine three factors when deciding tuition: what comparable schools charge, the amount of scholarships, grants and loans available and the median family income in Arizona. Brnovich said that system doesn’t make sense.
“Those maybe all nice things to look at, but if you’re a state university and your charge is to make it as nearly as free as possible, then why are you looking at all those other things,” he said.
“What they’re charging at Penn State or the University of Michigan should not be as important as are you making this as affordable as possible to Arizona kids.”