Students, parents and professors expressed concerns about proposed tuition hikes for Arizona's three public universities at an Arizona Board of Regents hearing Monday. Speakers brought up concerns about the increased cost of living and graduate stipends.
On March 7, ASU President Michael Crow proposed a 2.5% increase in tuition for on-campus resident students, a 4% increase for non-resident students and a 5% increase for international students.
Crow said in the meeting the proposal is simple and in line with ASU's commitment to maintaining low in-state tuition costs.
Of the 13 speakers who testified, nine of them were affiliated with ASU. There were two representatives from ASU student government and three members of the United Campus Workers Union, which defends the interests of workers at Arizona's public universities.
Only one speaker, Graduate Professional Student Association President Nicole K. Mayberry, endorsed the proposal on behalf of the Associated Students of ASU Council of Presidents, the five elected presidents from ASU's four campuses and GPSA.
Mayberry, a Ph.D. candidate and graduate student studying human and social dimensions of science and technology, said during the hearing the Council of Presidents decided Crow's proposals for increasing tuition was fair given the state's "minimal" financial support and the lack of tuition increases during the pandemic, Mayberry said during the hearing.
After the hearing, Mayberry said the proposal was reasonable in contrast to UA's proposal, which includes a 9% increase for their graduate students.
"The increases that ASU is asking for — yes, there are increases, but we believe them to be reasonable," Mayberry said.
Oscar Mancinas, a graduate student studying transborder studies and a member of UCW, criticized the proposed increase at the hearing, calling it uncaring given the rising cost of housing and other costs of living.
"The housing costs and cost of living in both the Salt River Valley and in the Tucson area have outpaced national averages," Mancinas said in the hearing. "Meanwhile, we'll continue to live in a state where wages are not commensurate."
Mancinas said UCW came to express concerns about raising the graduate stipend floor. Mancinas said graduate stipends are fixed and are already difficult to live off of, so raising tuition without raising tuition makes it even more challenging for graduate students to live.
"I was fortunate," Mancinas said, adding that he was able to offset living costs by staying with family and biking to school. "I was paid at or about the wage floor for grad stipends those three years, but I could make it work."
Mayberry said GPSA anticipates an update on student body negotiations on updated stipends for graduate students, potentially before the end of her term in May.
Jisoo Kim, a Ph.D. student, a member of UCW and a graduate studying geological sciences in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, said she was specifically against the proposed $100 increase in fees for international students, citing an internal study conducted by SESE that found the existing fee unpopular.
The $100 fee goes to the International Students and Scholars Center system, which Kim called "slow and inaccurate" in the hearing. Kim said she has spoken to international students who do not find ASU's ISSC website useful, to the point that they use the ISSC websites from other universities as an alternative.
Kim said the explanation for the fee increase in the proposal was not justified without a plan to rectify the issues the survey identified.
"Students, either 'A,' won't stand for it or 'B,' will have to leave the program," Kim said. "This will be the fee that pushes them over the edge."
ABOR will vote on all three proposals from the three public Arizona universities on April 7.
James Doyle Brown, Jr. is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He is also in his final semester as a graduate student studying investigative journalism at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He has previously reported for the State Press politics desk, The Howard Center of Investigative Journalism and Carnegie-Knight News21.