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Proposal to sweep tuition money is ‘unfair and gimmicky’

The proposal by several of our state legislators to use a bookkeeping maneuver to take tuition money away from state university students and their families to help plug the state budget gap is unfair, deceptive and unconscionable.
We in the state universities are well aware of Arizona’s budget crisis and have done our share of cost cutting. ASU alone has slashed more than $60 million from its budget. We have eliminated hundreds of jobs including those of deans, department chairs and faculty associates, consolidated academic departments and entire schools, increased class size, and generally cut corners wherever we could.
After months of negotiation with our student leaders, they agreed to a tuition increase to pay for very specific and urgently needed services including making investments in academic programs by hiring new faculty and retaining the ones we have; paying unfunded health and dental benefit rate increases and increases in base utilities costs; and hiring faculty and staff to support student retention, to name but a few.
Rep. Russell Pearce and Rep. Andy Biggs consider this hard-earned money of Arizona families to be found money subject to a funds sweep by the Legislature and propose to reduce the state universities’ appropriation by the amount of the tuition increase. Mr. Pearce and Mr. Biggs are both honorable men, but their interpretation of this situation is seriously misguided. Families that are trying to build a better life for the children and adult students who are working their way through college have agreed to pay an increased fee for their education, not to contribute to the state's General Fund.  The Boston Tea Party protested taxation without representation. This is taxation by deception, intentional or unintentional.
Those who seek — and win — elective public office should expect to have to make tough decisions in tough times. This isn't a tough decision; unfair and gimmicky are better ways to describe it. There is no question that the state needs to deal with its short-term budget crisis and to fix its long-term structural budget problem. But this kind of bookkeeping trick that carries such a heavy burden for many of Arizona’s families is not the way to do it.
— Michael Crow is president of Arizona State University.

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