Bill that would cap tuition held until lawmakers can discuss its implications

SB 1061, which would cap yearly tuition rates at Arizona universities, will have to wait for a stakeholder's meeting before the committee votes

A bill that would cap tuition and fees across Arizona universities at the state level will be held in committee until a stakeholder’s meeting can take place and allow for all parties involved to discuss the implications of the bill.

Senate Bill 1061, originally scheduled to be heard and voted on by the Education Committee Thursday morning, would prevent Arizona universities from raising tuition rates more than 2 percent higher than the previous year, beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

The bill's primary sponsor, state Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake), said in an interview Wednesday she thinks it will help students and families financially plan for college.

“The first thing is, let's slow down the cost. Let’s make it predictable,” Allen said.

Allen cited the cost of tuition at ASU in 2007 was $4,686 dollars and compared it to today's cost, which is over $10,000. 

On Jan. 20, the Arizona Board of Regents voted to oppose SB 1061.

ABOR President Eileen Klein spoke about the board’s objections to the bill and said universities can best deal with the issue of tuition increases on their own, adding that the tuition hikes that began during the recession were in part a response to funding cut from the state government.

“Well, on the surface the bill probably sounds great to a lot of people, but in some ways it really goes against a lot of the reforms we’ve made over the last several years,” Klein said. 

Klein said that before the recession started, the state government was funding 70 percent of a resident student’s tuition at that time. 

“Consequently, over the last ten years, we’ve had some of the highest tuition increases in the country,” Klein said.

Klein went on to detail the measures ABOR has taken in an effort to slow tuition increases.

The board has been trying to think of a different way to handle tuition increases for the past several years, Klein said. Now students are more involved than before in the tuition process and there’s more transparency regarding fees, she said.

“(The tuition is) not as low as I would like, but gone are those days of double-digit tuition increases that were going on year after year, after year,” she said.

One student, University of Arizona Student Body President Michael Finnegan, spoke before the committee in support of the bill and said students are not only impacted by tuition and mandatory fees but also the activity and course fees.

Finnegan said course fees are essentially a tax a student has to pay on a class they may need to graduate.

SB 1061 is one of many bills introduced in the state legislature that could have a big impact on the state's college students. The date for the stakeholder’s meeting regarding SB 1061 has not yet been set.


Reach the reporter at politics.statepress@gmail.com or follow @chriswood_311 on Twitter.

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