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Arizona’s attorney general took a hard run against rising university tuition, but the Arizona Supreme Court said that was outside his area of responsibility. Yet it was worth a try, and his efforts may yet shed more light on a problem area.

The court ruled that although the state constitution says tuition must be “as nearly free as possible,” Mark Brnovich could sue only if authorized by statute or the governor. His lawsuit did not meet either test.

College tuition has skyrocketed in recent years. Brnovich says the number for two decades is 400%. And that includes a one-year jump in 2003 of 39.1%

Resident tuition at the University of Arizona for the 2008-2009 school year was $5,531, and this year it is $12,671. The other two state universities have comparable numbers.

Brnovich did have one victory in the court’s decision, with respect to the unfortunate situation of students who were brought to the United States illegally as children. Although that matter should have been solved years ago by Congress, the attorney general has sought to deny the dreamers resident tuition. Meanwhile, the Board of Regents has set theirs at 150% of resident tuition. The court said Brnovich could pursue his suit in court, which will allow him to discover more information about what goes into tuition rates.

The regents obviously have considered things like the amount of student aid available, including loans, and the tuition amounts in other states. Arizona likewise considers tuition elsewhere when setting its out-of-state tuition, which is a major revenue stream for the universities.

Some politicians on the national scene issue regular statements about forgiving student loan debt, when that would be discriminatory against the many people who do not go to college. With all the new technology in use, college certainly could be delivered in a much more cost effective manner.

Brnovich lost much of his case, but his efforts are highlighting a serious problem that will need to get some relief.

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