Isn't it interesting how residency affects a student's status? I'll use this semester as an example. As a resident, I'm paying $3,427.56, but as a non-resident, I'd have to pay $11,132.06, a difference of $7,702.50 — an amount that garners sympathy for out-of-state students.
I'm a resident, but for a while, the UA begged to differ, even though I was born at Tucson Medical Center. I even went to a local Catholic elementary school, as well as a local Catholic high school. I got my first job when I was 16, working at the Safeway at Broadway Boulevard and Campbell Avenue, just blocks away from the UA. I got my driver's license in Tucson, registered to vote in Tucson, got my passport in Tucson, and so on and so forth.
On top of all that, my mother used to work at the UA library, directly under the library president. My brother, though born in California, shares all the same Tucson connections, and he attended the UA as an in-state student and on a scholarship.
My plan was to go to college in Boston. I had several choices, but, because I was an idiot, I stayed in Tucson for a girl. My then-girlfriend broke up with me right after high school graduation. Heartbroken and distraught, I decided to forgo my freshman year at the UA and the scholarship that came with it, in order to work full-time and find a place of my own.
That process took longer than I would have liked, but after the year off, I decided it was time to return to school. I applied and was accepted to the UA, but wasn't granted in-state student status.
Well, that caught me by surprise, to say the least.
What had happened was that my father owned a house and car in Tennessee, where his company happens to be based. He held a dual residency and I, and my education, were unfortunate casualties of his career.
Despite all our attempts, my appeals were in vain. I spoke to several people at the UA and presented to them my birth certificate, driver's license, voter identification card, pay stubs, high school diploma, state tax forms, and again, so on and so forth.
Even the fact that my brother attended the UA under the same circumstances meant nothing. Their response was to bemoan letting my brother slip through the cracks and to seem all the more resolute to make sure I paid out-of-state rates. The whole ordeal is enough to discourage a person from getting an education, and that hurts both the UA and potential students. Ironically, at that time, before Proposition 300, a referendum stating that university students who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents are not eligible for in-state tuition status or financial aid that is funded or subsidized by state monies, according to the UA Office of Registrar, it was easier for an illegal alien to get in-state tuition, needing only to have graduated from an in-state high school.
The funny thing was the reaction from the Tennessee schools I contacted; its basic response was confusion.
""How could we be justified in giving you in-state tuition when you not only live in Tucson, Arizona, but were born and educated there as well?""
This is the dilemma I found myself in and, with no other options available to me, I enrolled at Pima Community College, which, in case you were wondering, declared me a resident of Arizona and eligible for in-state tuition with nothing but my driver's license with my local address. Wow, that was easy! It was also predictable and fair.
After I transferred to the UA, I was unfortunately unable to get into any of the classes toward my journalism major. This is because transfer students are only allowed to search for classes almost immediately before the start of the semester getting only the scraps left from everyone else's academic feast.
I signed up for an atmospheric sciences class in an effort to remain a student at the UA. After the end of that class, and as the next semester was approaching, I learned I was no longer a UA student. Unbeknownst to me, having transferred in as a junior, I was obligated to ""make progress"" toward the completion of my declared major or be kicked out on my butt. Hence, I was kicked out on my butt and forced to reapply, restarting the initial cycle of not being able to get into any classes.
I felt like the UA really didn't care about me, or students in general.
Take the graduation rates at the UA as an example. The six-year graduation rate in 2007 was 56.1%, an abysmal 1.8% increase from the year 2000 and a poor graduation rate for a public institution. Fewer than one-third of UA students will graduate in four years.
The fact that the UA seems to expect the same from all its students, from the most to the least prepared for college, only enforces the image of the UA as a large, unstructured, almost corporate entity that cares little about the needs, or indeed the education of individual students.
Take my case as an example. Thank god for Bridget, my adviser, who was a lone bright spot amid the chaos.
So if you think education is not a service, then perhaps you should wonder why we pay so much for it and why money seems to be paramount. Wonder, as I do, how so many cuts can be made while simultaneously trying to educate more and more people, often unsuccessfully.
I'm sure the UA hasn't always been primarily concerned with money, but this mercenary value has been around for as long as I can remember, offering little, but taking more and more.
— Chris Ward is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.