This semester, The State Press has been a numbers graveyard.
Millions cut here, tuition raised there. Stimulus millions in, employees’ pay out. Admittedly, the digits have been overwhelming to absorb, and worse, they have been overwhelmingly negative.
With the state’s facing an unprecedented financial crisis of epic proportions, the University took a nearly $90 million hit in the current fiscal year. ASU expects to be asked to tackle a reduction of about half that size this coming fiscal year.
As all students know, having had to fret over everything from program reductions and rumored campus closures to added fees and tuition surcharges, it hasn’t been pretty and it hasn’t been fun.
But now, at last, the students get a bit of good news. Today, one number — 600 — finally stands out among the rest.
The number — the dollar amount taken off of the ASU proposal for per-year tuition surcharges for in-state students — perhaps represents that we have hit the bottom of the barrel and that the slow climb back up has finally begun.
The number reflects an economic stimulus plan at work, a plan that has now reached our level and delivered to our bottom lines in a tangible way.
The number is a sign of good faith from the University administration. It says the administration listened to the concerns of the student body and adjusted its proposal as soon as financial projections would allow it to.
Most of all, though, the number is a relief — albeit a small one — for those students who have been juggling the crushing costs of college with the desire to receive a higher education.
It is a rent check, a parking permit, at least one semester’s worth of textbooks. It is halfway to a dependable laptop computer, a few trips to the grocery store, a trip to study abroad.
However, as nice as the $600 reduction is, it is still $600 too short.
“It’s fantastic news that the administration realizes that $1,200 a year would’ve been unaffordable,” said Andrew Rigazio, a board member of the Arizona Students’ Association, “[but] the concerns we have now are the same as those we had before.”
We are still concerned about the Arizona Legislature’s shortchanging educational funding statewide. Though the state’s plans to dole out almost $60 million more to ASU than previously expected saved us all hundreds of dollars, we have no intention of trusting them any time soon after the devastation they caused in Arizona’s schools this spring.
We are also still concerned with the temporary nature of the surcharges. Whether the amount is $600 per semester or $600 per year, the student body must maintain due diligence in holding the administration accountable for all expenditures.
Above all else, we are still concerned with the cost of attendance at our state universities.
Affordability and accessibility are at the core of this institution.
While a $600 reduction in proposed surcharges is a step in the right direction, the student body still faces a steep battle toward regaining a foothold on tuition charges that have been careening upward in recent years.
It remains a battle that we, as students and as people of Arizona, cannot afford to lose.