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Updated Mar 15, 2013 - 4:19 pm

Arizona universities propose 3-5 pct. tuition hikes

PHOENIX — Arizona’s higher education leaders are demanding more money from
students, while also exploring legal options to reduce tuition for some
immigrants.

The state’s three public universities released tuition proposals Friday calling
for increases of up to 5 percent for the next academic year. School officials
said the proposed increases were modest amid skyrocketing enrollment and
shrinking state funding.

Under the proposals, students at Arizona State University and the University of
Arizona could see tuition increase by 3 percent next year, while Northern
Arizona University’s incoming students are facing a 5 percent tuition hike.

The Arizona Board of Regents will discuss the proposals at a March 27 public
hearing, which will include all three universities via videoconference. The
board is expected to set final tuition and fee rates for the 2013 academic year
when it meets in Tucson in April.

Board chairman Rick Myers said Arizona students would still pay less than
students at other comparable universities.

“We are not out of control,” he said.

The board is also weighing its options to reduce tuition for some immigrants
granted legal protections under a new Obama administration policy. Students who
are in the country illegally often pay much more to get a college education
compared with Arizona residents.

“There clearly is a desire among this board of regents that students who have
gone through our high schools in Arizona and live in Arizona need to have access
to higher education,” Myers said. “There is a sense of urgency to learn more
about and to think about what we might do.”

Student leaders said they were not surprised by the proposed tuition increases.
Since 2007, tuition and fees for Arizona’s public universities have jumped by as
much as 96 percent.

“They just do as they desire,” said Shannon Boruch, a 20-year-old sophomore
and a student senator at NAU in Flagstaff.

At ASU, new resident undergraduates would pay up to $9,484, an increase of $276
a year. The Tempe-based school has not released proposals for room and board
rates.

In Tucson, resident undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees at UA would cost
$10,391 next year, an increase of $356. Students would also see an $80 library
fee increase. In all, UA has lost $180 million in state funding since 2008,
driving per-student funding to its lowest level since 1967, according to school
officials.

Tuition and fees for new resident undergraduate students at NAU would total
$9,738 next year, up $467 from 2012. The school offers a guaranteed-tuition plan
for incoming freshmen that freezes rates for four years.

Faculty and school leaders said the increases are necessary to ensure a quality
education for the state’s many new students. ASU has added more than 23,000
students since 2002, while the NAU student body has grown by 5 percent since
2010.

“We need to have this money to continue to offer the services that we have
been offering,” said Allen Reich, a hospitality professor at NAU and chair of
the Arizona Faculties Council, which represents professors at the three public
universities.

Under Arizona law, immigrant students must provide a green card, indicating
permanent residency, to qualify for resident tuition. Students who have been
granted deferred action by the Department of Homeland Security are considered
lawfully present but do not have lawful immigration status, said Sarah Harper,
spokeswoman for the regents. Therefore, they must pay nonresident tuition,
Harper said.

Pro-immigration groups, students and professors have also called for reduced
tuition for young immigrants.

“I haven’t spoken to anyone who is against it,” Reich said. “People getting
a college degree are always a benefit to society.”

Immigrants protected under the new Obama policy must be younger than 30 and
must have come to the U.S. before they turned 16. Roughly 80,000 immigrants in
Arizona are eligible, according to state estimates.

Gov. Jan Brewer has said young people in the deferred action program are still
in the country illegally and should not receive “any taxpayer-funded public
benefits.”

Some school leaders have ignored Brewer’s stance.

Pima Community College and Maricopa County Community College District recently
voted to offer reduced tuition for illegal immigrants enrolled in the federal
program. The Arizona Board of Regents does not oversee community colleges.

At Pima, the change reduces the cost for full-time enrollment from more than
$9,000 to about $2,000 annually.

At Maricopa, school officials recently sought to increase tuition from $76 per
credit hour to $81 per credit hour for the upcoming academic year.

In 2011, average debt for undergraduates was $23,800 nationally, compared with
about $21,000 in Arizona, according to the College Board, a nonprofit that
tracks financial aid and tuition. Nationally, 57 percent of undergraduates at
public schools borrowed money, compared with 54 percent in Arizona.

___

Cristina Silva can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/cristymsilva

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