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Regents approve university tuition rates, hear plan to cut costs for some immigrants

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PHOENIX — Most students attending Arizona public universities will see tuition and fee increases between 3 and 4 percent next fall after the Arizona Board of Regents approved the boosts Monday to deal with cuts in state funding.

University regents signed off on the proposal put forward by the presidents of Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University to make up for millions of dollars in state funding cuts.

University of Arizona and NAU students entering as freshmen will see their tuition increase, while all ASU students will pay a new $320 fee. The board voted down a proposal from Chairman Mark Killian to lower the special one-time fee to $200 for resident students make up for that by charging out-of-state students a much higher fee.

NAU and University of Arizona students on guaranteed tuition programs would be spared tuition increases.

The increases came after the Legislature and Gov. Doug Ducey cut $99 million from university funding in the coming budget year and despite Ducey's wish that tuition remain flat. Killian said even with the increases there will be layoffs and the state's elected leaders need to come up with a way to restore funding to the universities, which have seen cuts approaching $500 million in the past half-dozen years while enrollment has skyrocketed.

"I think we're abandoning the history of Arizona, where the general fund subsidizes if you will every in-state student," Killian said.

Tuition and mandatory fees at the universities for incoming freshmen who are Arizona residents currently hovers around $10,000 a year.

Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona got approval for 3 to 4 percent increases in tuition for Arizona residents, bringing tuition and fees at the institutions to $10,358 and $11,403 respectively.

Students currently enrolled on guaranteed tuition plans would see no increase, but out-of-state students would see much bigger hikes at both schools.

Arizona State University will charge all new and existing in-state students a one-time $320 surcharge for the 2015-2016 school year while keeping tuition flat. That also equates to about a 3 percent hike. With the fee, incoming freshmen will pay $10,477 a year. Graduate students and non-residents will see tuition increases.

Regents also approved a series of fee and housing increases for the coming year, plus set higher rates for various graduate degree programs and at satellite campuses.

University tuition has more than doubled in the past decade, but overall state funding has dropped despite big enrollment increases.

Borina Tapscott, an ASU sophomore who attending the regents meeting, said she was happy the regents allowed students input on the cuts but lamented the need for them.

"Unfortunately we don't ever like seeing an increase, but with the cuts from our state there really wasn't too much of an option," Tapscott said. "Really in the future what we want to see is more state support for our students, so that we don't have to be increasing this tuition."

The regents also advanced a plan to charge a discounted rate for certain immigrants who currently have to pay out-of-state fees. The proposal would cut tuition to 150 percent of in-state tuition for young immigrants who are protected from deportation under a federal program implemented by President Barack Obama.

The regents seemed supportive of the plan, which they contend won't violate a 2006 voter approved law banning state aid to people in the state illegally. Regents spokeswoman Katie Paquet said an analysis shows charging 150 of in-state tuition to so-called Dreamers and any other students who graduated an Arizona high school but don't qualify for in-state tuition will cover their education costs.

It could come up for a vote next month.

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