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Legislative committee votes against bill guaranteeing a four-year tuition rate for students

SB 1061, which was amended to keep a student's tution from changing during their four years at Arizona universities, was voted down in the Arizona Senate Education Committee Thursday morning

The Arizona Senate Education Committee meets in Senate Hearing Room 1 on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.

The Arizona Senate Education Committee meets in Senate Hearing Room 1 on Thursday, Jan. 26, 2017.

A bill that would have imposed guaranteed tuition programs and required approval of fees at state universities, including ASU, was voted down by the Arizona Senate Education Committee Thursday morning.

Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) said Senate Bill 1061 would provide students and parents with transparency and predictability, during the committee meeting.

“I think this is good for our students," Allen said. "I don’t think it’s going to be an undue burden on our universities."

Allen said the amended bill did not include any tuition caps. She said the new provisions were both reasonable for universities and necessary so that students and parents could know what a university education would cost.

“We need accountability for that,” Allen said, referring to the fees charged by universities. “Why isn’t tuition sufficient?”

Originally, SB 1061 restricted tuition increases to two percent each year. The amended bill removed that provision and instead required all universities to guarantee that each student pay the same tuition rate for four years, as well as to approve all fees exceeding $50 and to provide rationale for tuition increases.

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

Northern Arizona University’s Pledge Program and the UA’s Guaranteed Tuition Program currently guarantee that a four-year undergraduate student will pay the same amount in tuition all eight semesters.

While ASU does not have a similar program, the University has pledged to increase tuition by no more than 3 percent each year.

Kody Kelleher, assistant vice president of Governmental Affairs for the Arizona Board of Regents, said differences in university tuition policies strategically serve the needs of different student populations.

“Locking them into statute is really going to handcuff our universities,” Kelleher said.

On Feb. 1, Tempe Undergraduate Student Government released a statement against SB 1061 in its original form.

The letter to students expressed concerns that state funding cuts were inconsistent with a tuition cap and that fee limits would restrict student services.

“SB 1061 is an amicable attempt to add a sense of predictability when it comes to the price of higher education,” the statement read. “We strongly encourage you to read the bill in its entirety.”

Both Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (R-Phoenix), and Sen. David Bradley (D-Tucson) said attempts to control tuition increases would be viewed negatively given recent cuts to state funding for universities.

“We haven’t been very predictable in our budgeting process,” McGee said.

McGee ultimately voted against the bill, citing a dislike of monetary caps, but said it "puts appropriate pressure on universities to take students into account when setting tuition and fees."

The defeat in committee means that the bill will not move forward to a vote in the Senate or House.

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