Opinion: The Barrett fee increase conversation shouldn't be over

Barrett students still deserve affordability and accountability

As ASU gets into the swing of the new year, one thing shouldn’t escape students' interest: Barrett students will pay $1000 every semester for the honors experience — a fact that students cannot forget.

The issue’s time may seem like it’s passed; after all, the Arizona Board of Regents unanimously approved President Crow’s tuition proposal, which raised the Barrett fee from $750 to $1000 per semester in March. But don’t think it won’t come up again. The increases in the past 14 years have been regular and substantial. 

In fact, in the 14 years that the fee has existed, it’s been raised three times. Before 2005, being an honors student was free. Then, the cost was $250 until 2010, $500 until 2015 and $750 until this year. 

That makes Barrett one of the most expensive honors colleges in the nation — an idea counter to the Arizona Constitution's promise of keeping instruction in public universities for in-state students "as nearly free as possible." 

This alone should be cause for concern. Rising college fees carry the risk of making a Barrett education inherently less accessible, which is especially problematic at a school chartered on the principle of inclusion.

Maxim Quint, a junior studying civic and economic thought and leadership, and president of the Barrett Honors College Council ran for the position on a platform of lowering the Barrett fee.

"This is my personal goal ... to try to either get the University or the state to help with the cost of the fee," Quint said.

The 62-page tuition proposal is also nearly inaccessible to the average reader, it's buried at the very bottom of ASU’s tuition information website, and it is in a very small font. 

The student consultation disclosure around the Barrett fee increase was vital because it is board policy that student consultation may be a factor. Crow explains that the Barrett Senators “expressed an understanding of the value of the fee increase to honors students," but that’s false. I was one of them, and I expressed no such thing. 

As last year's senior Barrett Senator, I had a meeting with Dean Jacobs regarding this fee increase. I expressed my opposition and my concerns about how this had been communicated to the Barrett student body.

Read more: USGT passes resolution opposing Barrett's handling of fee increase

The proposal also claims that Barrett students have “decision-level input” on how fee revenue is spent and the size of future fee increases through the Barrett Honors College Council Fee Committee. However, the fee committee does not exist, and has not existed for the past two years. This matters because the fee increase was justified through a committee that didn't exist, to claim students had input when they didn't. 

In February, Barrett Dean Mark Jacobs called students' concerns about the fee "silly" — that is not acceptable. It shows a fundamental disconnect between the administration and the students who have to pay the fee.

That's why it's a relief to know that some student leaders are still paying attention. 

"Lowering the Barrett fee — I do maintain that commitment," Quint said. "Everyone told me while I was running that it would be extremely difficult to lower the Barrett fee in the future, especially this semester or this year. Being on the ground at this point, I tend to agree." 

Barrett students need to educate themselves on the 2019 controversy, the efforts of student journalists and leaders to shine light on the issue and the strategies that ASU administration used to push this through anyway. 

There will be a next time, and we need strong student advocates to make sure the student body is not misled again. Barrett students deserve better. 


Reach the columnist at nicolemorote@gmail.com or follow @NicoleMorote on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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