AZ Repubs and Dems can agree on one thing: Tuition needs to be as low-cost as possible
Arizona regent Ron Shoopman speaks at an Arizona Board of Regents Meeting on April 7.
Over the last decade, in-state tuition at the UA has increased by 248 percent.
Still trying to recover from last year’s budget cuts from the state legislature, the Arizona Board of Regents voted unanimously in April to increase UA tuition and fees for the 2016-17 academic year.
Although Governor Doug Ducey proposed adding an extra 8 million dollars to the budget, state funding of public universities remains below pre-recession levels.
Continuing tuition hikes equate to more student loan debt, which according to Pew Research Center, has more than doubled in the last 20 years.
While most university students contend with the effects of tuition increases, every student has a chance this November to have their voices heard at the ballot box.
The Republicans and Democrats running for the state legislature this year will determine the state’s contribution to the public universities’ budgets in the future.
According to Bill Beard, the Pima County GOP chair, and Jo Holt, the Pima County Democratic Party chair, Arizona's Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing—per the state's constitution, college tuition must be as low-cost as possible for Arizona’s residents.
Each party’s platform and philosophy on funding addresses this memorandum in a different fashion.
While not every Republican candidate for state legislature holds the same position, Beard said, “A number of them have said the funding formulas at the university level need to be examined.”
He said when Republicans send state dollars to public universities they want value for their investment.
“It goes back to the idea—are [universities] educating more students or growing the bureaucracy of the education system?” Beard said. “The Republican Party does not want to see an increase in staffing without a commensurate increase in the number of educated students or the quality of the product.”
Beard said another important question for Republicans is whether the funding from the state legislature going to college degrees with high production are improving the economy in terms of either dollars or people.
He said Republicans want to ensure a valuable education for students with their state funding.
Without continually increasing state funding, Beard said most Republicans believe Arizona can fulfill its constitutional obligation of affordable tuition while also ensuring that graduates exit a public university with a quality education and a good-paying job.
While Republicans currently control the state legislature, the Arizona Democratic Party hopes to make gains this election and pursue an alternative policy to funding public universities.
“When the economy has trouble and revenue goes down, there are many places that [legislators] could look in the budget [other than education] to fix that lack of revenue,” Holt said about Ducey’s cuts to public universities.
In order to increase funding for public universities, Holt said the state Democrats plan to cut subsidies and tax breaks to corporations.
“The cost [of tuition] is mounting,” Holt said. “Arizonans are short changing a critical investment in the future of all levels of our government and our society by allowing this to occur.”
She said Arizona Democrats believe in diverting funds to public universities to minimize the cost of attendance, even if that means fighting against the status quo in the capital building.
While not every student on campus will completely agree with the Republican or Democratic position on how to keep college tuition low, they do have the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election.
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