Understanding ASU's tuition increase

As ASU student government elections grow closer, candidates take to the sidewalks, passing out flyers and talking to voters.

I've personally talked to both supporters and candidates, and the subject that has come up time and time again is the cost of tuition.

Candidates seem adamant about letting the voices of students they represent be heard; their goal is to send a message to the state Legislature, a message condemning the cuts in education funding.

Campaign promises aside, I feel it's extremely important to understand why we got to where we are and  how to make the best of our situation.

So how did we get here?

The answer lies in our state government before current Gov. Jan Brewer took office and even before the economy tanked in late 2008. You'd have to go back to former Gov. Janet Napolitano's tenure.

Let me ask you this: What happens when a government spends more money than it takes in? The answer is, of course, a budget deficit.

This is precisely what occured under her leadership. Arizona began spending more money than it generated in revenue.

According to the Goldwater Institute, Napolitano significantly increased Arizona's spending. In 2004, her budget was $6.7 billion, a 12 percent increase from 2003. While she claimed her budget proposal would cut spending, history has proven it failed to do so.

When the economy went under, things only got worse in the Valley of the Sun.

It is apparent that because of this, Arizona is in the midst of a deep budget crisis.

The Legislature is vehemently trying to cut wasteful spending, and this is advantageous. The cuts are a necessity, and this is crucial to understand. Arizona's spending cuts are up to $1.1 billion. Various sources even rank our deficit as catstraphic. In 2008, the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities ranked Arizona as the state with the worse debt.

When President Barack Obama's stimulus money runs out, Arizona's government cannot afford to continue to spend as much money as it has on public programs, even on education.

Unfortunately, this means ASU is going to have to account for its loss of state funding. Thus, the tuition increase must happen.

Obviously a frustration to most students, the increase in tuition is something that had to happen. If you want ASU to continue to offer all of what it has to offer, it's very necessary.

I wrote this column because I felt as though their anger was being directed toward the wrong people — the current Legislature — rather than the people trying to pick up the broken pieces of Arizona's economy.

If you're going to point the finger, point it at Napolitano's state budget.

The faster we shrink our deficit, the quicker Arizona will able to step back into the limelight of economic growth.

If a slight increase in tuition is what it takes, than we'll have to tighten our belts. In times of economic downturn, public programs suffer — even education.

Send Sean your comments at spmccaul@asu.edu

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