Higher Ed: spending decreases, tuition increases

Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix Campus (Stephanie Morse/DD)

Arizona state spending per student for higher education has decreased by half since 2008, the largest decrease in the nation, a recent study has found.

The state spending amount decreased by 54.9% over the past decade, the largest percent change among the 50 states, according to a study by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The decrease in Arizona’s spending amount is about four times higher than the nation’s average, which sits at a decrease of 14.3%.

The average tuition at public colleges has risen to $5,384 in Arizona over 10 years. The cost of tuition is nearly $3,000 more than the average for the nation, according to the study.

Tuition at public universities in Arizona has increased by 97% between 2005 and 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Following the recession in 2008, all states were forced to dramatically cut budgets. The study shows that a decade later, as the economy recovered, many states brought money back to restore higher education budgets, but Arizona has not.

To make up for the lack of funding, the Arizona Board of Regents has increased the tuition, which goes back to funding universities’ needs, but this increase comes at a cost, which the students have to pay.

“The correlation is pretty clear; when the state-funded our public institutions at a higher level, tuition costs were lower and then as they pulled funding tuition costs shot up to make up the difference,” said Rachel Yanof, the director of Reach60AZ, a program that aims to have 60% of Arizonans obtain a college degree by 2030 through email.

Some students rely on their parents to fund their pursuit for a degree, but others work on top of their course load just to make it by.

“I’d say that it’s way too much to expect students who don’t have help from their parents— or even if they have help, that puts a burden on them now,” said Nate Berman, an ASU sophomore.

While ABOR has increased tuition, the state schools are still trying to keep it as manageable as possible for students. ASU is attempting to continue its promise to limit increases in tuition costs.

“In the midst of (the state’s lack of funding), ASU President Michael M. Crow nevertheless made a commitment that Arizona resident students’ tuition would not go up more than 3% per year,” said ASU in a statement. “That was seven years ago. And that commitment has now been extended at least another 10 years.”

In light of the financial burden higher education is creating, many believe making college as cheap as possible is the right direction for Arizona, including Rep. John Fillmore, the Vice-Chairman of the Arizona House Committee of Education.

Fillmore believes that the Arizona Board of Regents is not focusing on the right factors when setting tuition costs.

“There are two things (in ABOR’s administrative law) that caught my eye, one being the availability of student financial aid. That means if you can get more money, you can charge more, to me,” he said. “Also, Arizona’s median family income level, what does that have to do with it? If it’s going to be free, it’s got to be free for everybody.”

The Arizona Board of Regents were unable to comment at this time.

Contact the reporter at [email protected].