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Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Last updated: 8:28am

Locked in tuition gets UA out of a pickle



Ask me or any other college student about our fears and you’ll see the look, the one that screams, “I’m in way over my head with debt, and on top of that, my tuition has increased every year I’ve been here.”

It’s a look that comes with an understanding that a “full-ride” scholarship won’t cover all of your costs because the award is static, while tuition isn’t.

While our pleas for more financial assistance and more transparency in university spending go unanswered, our goals are overshadowed by the possibility of rising tuition.

According to a study conducted by The College Board in 2013, Arizona had the highest in-state tuition and fee increases at its public four-year institutions. Over the five-year span from 2008 to 2013, tuition increases clocked in at a whopping 70 percent, compared to the national average of 27 percent.

In strictly monetary terms, that’s a $4,135 hike that no student should be expected to shoulder.

The answer to such a financial mess lies in an option the UA has yet to offer its incoming students: locked-in tuition.

According to scholarships.com, locked-in tuition offers enticing benefits to students looking to save long-term on higher education. For starters, the amount of tuition you pay for your entire college career is literally “locked-in” to whatever rate the university currently offers.

Big name schools like the University of Kansas, George Washington University and Columbia College all offer plans that make it easy for students to know exactly what they’re going to be shelling out for an education.

Even NAU abides by a set tuition program known as PLEDGE, where freshmen are guaranteed the same tuition for all four years of school. As attractive as an education from the UA is, there’s no denying a better financial deal elsewhere could certainly make me reconsider my enrollment choice.

If the UA adopted a similar plan, students could start saving earlier, better understand their financial situation before college and not be subject to the whiplash of tuition hikes year after year. There are already models we could follow.

In Texas, there is an entire system dedicated to helping students save for either a two or four-year institution, known as the Texas Tuition Promise Fund. The fund allows families to purchase units of tuition credit at a fixed price before even deciding on which Texas school they want to attend.

Think of the units like CatCash. There’s a fixed amount you put on your CatCard at the beginning of the semester, and then you can decide where and how you’re going to spend your money.

In this instance, you would be deciding which UA classes you want to take. While Texas allows its students to apply credit to any of its institutions, the UA could adopt a very similar plan and still remain autonomous from NAU and ASU tuition policies.

What’s such a steal about this system is the total transparency it represents: Market changes don’t affect the value of units used toward tuition, so what you save is what you can spend.

Moreover, the system is highly attractive to a diverse group of people from all types of socioeconomic backgrounds. Even people who may not have been able to afford tuition all at once would have the option to put away small amounts of savings over long periods of time, making higher education attainable to more than just those people who can anticipate rising tuition.

Under the weight of fees, debts and the ever-increasing price of tuition, the UA student body needs a way to compensate. Locked-in tuition or a similar system could be just the option we’re looking for.

Without change, the UA will certainly lose out on enrollment to other schools — like NAU — that already offer more financial stability and guaranteed tuition plans. Unless the UA wants to continue to turn out dissatisfied, debt-ridden students who feel completely taken advantage of by volatile tuition hikes, there needs to be serious reconsideration of current policies and the implementation of a far more responsible tuition system.

Mackenzie Brown is a pre-physio freshman. Follow her @mac_brown01.


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