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ASU president responds to AG lawsuit, defends tuition model

Crow outlined ASU metrics and addressed 'public attacks' from the Attorney General

President Michael Crow meets with The State Press editorial board on Friday, Oct. 2, 2015, at the Fulton Center in Tempe, Arizona.

ASU President Michael Crow on Saturday reinforced the benefits of the University's tuition model and denounced Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's lawsuit over the Arizona Board of Regents' tuition-setting policies as a "public attack."

Crow's response to the suit came in an email to ASU's faculty and staff and in a series of tweets late afternoon on Saturday.

Brnovich filed a lawsuit on Sept. 8 that claimed the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state's three public universities, has levied unconstitutional tuition hikes over the past 15 years.

"During the last week, there has been much debate in the media about ASU’s commitment to access and affordability prompted by a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Attorney General against the Arizona Board of Regents with respect to tuition rates," part of the email read.

In his email, Crow said ASU's tuition-setting model over the past fifteen years has evolved to become a "moderate-tuition, high-financial-aid model" that provides a low net tuition price for students. 

"The average net tuition and fees paid by Arizona resident undergraduate students at ASU is about $2,000 per year," part of the email read. "That is after students receive grant and gift aid, which does not need to be paid back. For families with incomes under $50,000, it averages less than $200. This is historically, for ASU and for just about anyone, a very low net tuition."

He listed key facts about ASU's growth in multiple areas, including diversity, enrollment, retention and graduation rates, and average student debt. All this has come despite the state's 49th ranking in per capita higher education investment, Crow said in the email.

"We have re-engineered our entire operating model and have made unbelievable progress in every metric measurable," part of the email read.

The eight-part tweet thread acted as a condensed version of the email. It listed key facts and metrics regarding the lawsuit, but was distinct in that it claimed Brnovich has misrepresented the facts in his recent "public attacks."

Crow, in an interview with KJZZ on Friday, said the lawsuit's claims weren't consistent with the University's tuition model.

"So my initial reaction was surprise," Crow said during the KJZZ interview. "Because we've spent fifteen years developing and deploying a model with very limited public investment that allows us to say to the residents of Arizona 'you have access to a world-class research university at a very low cost.'"

He said those involved in crafting the lawsuit missed key points when evaluating ASU's tuition prices.

"I think that the folks that put this suit together may have been looking at just a simple website with our stated tuition price but not looking at our financial aid packages, not looking at the financial aid that we have," he said. "What we've put together at ASU is a tremendous program taking that cost of a student from Arizona in particular down to a tremendously affordable price."

Crow said in an interview with The State Press last March that ASU's in-state tuition is calculated to be as close to free as possible.

“For in-state students, we are running the institution under the assumption that we’re trying to make it as close to free as possible,” Crow said. “It’s the lowest possible tuition increase that allows us to continue to have forward movement.”

In his Saturday email, Crow said he hoped the facts presented would provide better context to those who have read Brnovich's claims.

He closed the email by reinforcing the University's commitment in "providing the highest-quality public education at the lowest cost possible."

"This is our charge, and this responsibility is ingrained in every single thing we do every single day," part of the email read. "We will continue to do this no matter what. Thank you for your continued commitment to the success of the students we serve."

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