Victory for UA students, but work still remains

A victory of sorts has been gained for the UA student body thanks to the efforts of student leaders from multiple campuses and the willingness of the UA Board of Regents (BOR) to consider students’ concerns.

The BOR has decided not to raise lower-division course tuition for the 2011-2012 academic school year with all members in favor and none opposed. The decision on whether or not to increase all level courses for the 2012-2013 school year has been postponed until the regents’ next meeting set for November at the UAA campus.

The previously approved 5-percent increase for 100-200 level courses and the 10-percent increase for 300-400 level course will remain in place. These increases will take affect at the beginning of the fall 2011 semester.

There was a plethora of issues discussed prior to deciding on a postponement of finalizing the 2012-2013 tuition increase. Regent Bob Martin stated that the board did not have the resources to work out all the moving parts of the dilemma at its current meeting.

“This basket of all the moving parts needs to be sent back to the president, let him and his resources sort this out, come to us with something that is logical and reasonable that we can sit down and sink our teeth into at our next meeting,” Martin said. “I suggest that that could be the wisest course of various options that we’re facing now.”

The current policy allows the BOR to push current proposals back to the president and have him come back with altered proposals at the next meeting.

Regent Kirk Wickersham was the first to announce a motion to reaffirm the 2011-2012 school year tuition structure already in place with Regent Carl Marrs immediately seconding the motion. The tuition structure would have remained the same even if the board had decided not to vote, but they felt that reaffirming the motion would be a clear communication to the students.

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A big piece of the discussion on the 2011-2012 tuition rate was the need to address a continuing concern that UA’s lower division rates compared to other universities outside the state are relatively high, stated Regent Cynthia Henry.

“Our four-year tuition is low by comparison to other state institutions, but when we compare our lower divisions to community colleges around the country we are on the high end,” Henry said. “In my years on the board we have tried to find a way to address that and we finally did. That will bake, that will stay in (the policy) unless the next board changes (the 5-percent differential in place).”

Associated Students of UAF President Nicole Carvajal was very excited about the board’s decision concerning the 2011-2012 school year and feels they made the right descion.

“I am more confident that when we come back to the table and discuss the academic year 2013 tuition I think we will get a reasonable solution for everyone,” Carvajal said.”(The postponement) makes sense. I can understand wanting to know exactly what they are getting into and getting an exact number is something that will be great.”

The clear signal from the state legislature that they plan to start providing less of the university’s budget, problems with access to higher education for students and the impact that tuition increases would have on students are among the set of challenges the BOR faces, stated Dr. Michael Driscoll, provost of academic affairs.

“ I think it was a rational idea to look further at what the impacts are, to involve students who have done a great job in analyzing the situation… we don’t have a lot of time to due that, however, and we’ll need to do that quickly,” Driscoll said.

Coalition of Student Leaders President Peter Finn is looking forward to further discussion regarding the 2012-2013 school year tuition structure. He feels that the students got want they wanted for the 2011-2012 school year and that obtaining their goal for the next academic year’s tuition is possible.