Why Are Arizona’s Universities Hiking Tuition?

Students in the Arizona university system are being told once again that they will have to pay higher tuition. Education leaders appear to give little thought to the fact that as their student loan burden grows, students’ job prospects are not growing at the same rate.

Unfortunately for the students, those leaders can and do pass the blame onto the Arizona Legislature.

On March 18, 2016, the Arizona Board of Regents issued a statement regarding the proposed tuition hikes that reads in part: “We begin the annual public review of these tuition proposals amid a legislative session in which the regents have respectfully asked for some modest restoration of the recent, significant reductions in state support. We are grateful for the governor’s proposed reinvestment of $8 million in our newly designed funding model, which envisions gradual restoration of state support to 50 percent of the average cost of education for Arizona resident students, up from the present 34 percent. We seek an additional $24 million from the available funds in the present cycle, which would increase support to 36 percent.”

The Regents carefully craft the language and accept no responsibility for the hikes. Logic dictates that if university leaders and the Regents are not held responsible for the hikes there is little incentive to prevent them. But is it the Legislature’s fault? Have they really made such drastic cuts to our university system funding? Or is it that they simply cannot keep up with the dramatic education cost increases?

In February, Ellen Wexler discussed those increases in an article for Inside Higher ED. She writes, “College tuition has risen too quickly, and debt is unmanageable for increasing numbers of students; that much is clear. But to contain college prices, education leaders will need to answer a contentious question: Why does the price keep rising?”

“Higher education’s critics tend to blame high prices on overpaid professors or fancy climbing walls,” continues Wexler. “At public colleges, lobbyists tend to blame reductions in state support. But a new study places the blame elsewhere: the ready availability of federal student aid.”

According to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee baseline documents, it would appear that from 2009 through 2015, the universities experienced a fluctuation of funding:

University of Arizona – Main CampusFY 2009 ACTUALFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES441,903,3001,547,027,1001,608,307,3001,606,925,0001,649,992,000
Arizona State University – East CampusFY 2009 ACTUALFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES67,964,00088,445,80070,031,10079,400,40081,702,900
Northern Arizona UniversityFY 2009 ACTUALFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES395,826,400461,675,700465,055,100490,967,900530,075,000

Joint Legislative Budget Committee partial baseline comparison

University of Arizona – Main CampusFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES1,547,027,1001,608,307,3001,606,925,0001,649,992,000
University of Arizona – Health Sciences CenterFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES365,858,700379,908,100413,810,800492,306,500
Arizona State University – Tempe/DPCFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES1,561,506,5001,653,257,3001,793,253,3001,967,854,200
Arizona State University – East CampusFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES88,445,80070,031,10079,400,40081,702,900
Northern Arizona UniversityFY 2012 ACTUALFY 2013 ACTUALFY 2014 ACTUALFY 2015 ACTUAL
TOTAL – ALL SOURCES461,675,700465,055,100490,967,900530,075,000
TOTAL – ALL YEARS4,024,513,8004,176,558,9004,384,357,4004,721,930,600

 Joint Legislative Budget Committee – all entities baseline comparison 2012 to 2015

To view the detailed Arizona University System Baseline Book information – click here

In the March 18, 2016, press release, Jay Heiler, Chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents concluded: “All three of our universities have been engaged with their teams and the board over the past six years in an intensive, ongoing effort to find cost savings, establish and grow other sources of revenue, and evolve their financial models. At the same time, we are working toward ever-improving academic quality and student experience. The state’s part and partnership, not only as a funder but as a collaborator in this work, will be critically important this year and in years to come.”

Contrary to those claims, in September of 2015, while demanding more money from the Legislature, raised the salaries of all three university presidents. Arizona State University President Michael Crow received a $150,000 raise for the 2015 fiscal year for a total compensation of nearly $1 million. University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart received an increase of $115,000 for a total compensation of approximately $753,700. Northern Arizona President Rita Cheng received an increase of $40,000 for a total compensation of approximately $560,200.

As a frame of reference, the governor of Arizona earns $95,000 a year. According to Ballotpedia, members of the Legislature earn $24,000 each year (with per diem pay) for approximately 120 days in session. According to new research from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, university presidents on average earn $377,261 annually, or more than twice the average pay for CEOs, who take home about $176,840 on average each year.

For the kind of money our university presidents make, one would expect them to be more successful at finding cost savings, and growing other sources of revenue, rather than raising tuition on kids in a state in which the median income is $49,928.

Related article: Arizona University Leaders Want Tuition Increases Again


  1. Student Loans are the next “bubble” all Lowly Tax Payers will be stuck with for decades.

    No going to your bank or credit union for a student loan. Uncle Sam is the only game in town and he hands out other people’s money like candy.

    In a related story, Goldwater says from mid 90’s to mid 2000 college admin fees went up 61%!

    Colleges compete for students by adding Lazy Rivers, Climbing Walls, Gourmet Dining, Spas etc to their campuses.

    College isn’t meant to be a RESORT! You’d never know it by reading up on what’s on the campus grounds.

    Are college grads prepared for the real world? They’re being coddled and pampered and then us taxpayers will bail them out when they can’t pay their tens of thousands of student debt back.

    The joke’s on us…The Colleges figured out how to get us to pay for their nonsense.
    1.Raise tuition
    2.Increase Pell Grants/student loan limits
    3.See #1, repeat

    • I’ve often wondered why the Goldwater Institute hasn’t gone after education funding in this state since it runs contrary to the state constitution. Do they only go after Democratic supported items or do they truly care about the state constitution? We could sure use their help.

  2. Now all ADI has to do is cross-reference these numbers with Enrollment and Employment stats to gain a better perspective of how much it is costing to educate each student.

  3. Ann weaver (nonhyphenated) hart and the other prezes of the alleged Ariz “universities”; the board of trustees- all got significant raises. The “wet dreamers” are entitled to “in-state” tuition. Meanwhile, students from within Ariz get raised by the usual shaft. Time for change(s) folks.
    MEMO TO THE GUV: “Get on it, Doug.”

  4. Starve these cess pools of wasted money by taking your money elsewhere until they poop or get off the pot.

    Or better yet, Strike on the universities with your tuition money until they correct this gross negligence of prices and absolutely force the colleges and banks to get some skin in the game with regards to these outrageous loans.

    If the student defaults then guess what, not only them will be on the hook, but same for the banks and the university in equal shares of say 1/3rd 1/3rd 1/3rd–

    See how long that crap flies then, when it ain’t only the money tree tax payer backing up these outrageous loans for non marketable so called educations in worthless crap like fly dung cohesion theory.

    No more tenure either, you suck ur fired on the spot.

    It’s extortion of the young and is sickening.

  5. Back in the late 60’s it cost approx $700 per semester for tuition and fees! Todays costs are closer to $5000 I think the last report said. Our fees also included access to football and basketball games, today I believe these are extra fees on top of the fees’. I dont know what a ‘school prez or administrator’ made then but the oay ranges of these guys is ridiculous IMNSHO! If they were getting outside support like they claim then why are the costs so high. If they are going to do ‘research’ let the people who request it FUND IT. My kids both have degrees and are forced to pay forevr it seems to get them paid back. If they are going to raise fees then they need to find ways for the banks who want to cover the loans to pay back for the the opportunity to participate in the loan programs. No they make money off the loans and then get a kickback probably from the schools?

    Higher education is getting to be a joke anymore, did you read about the ‘traumatized’ emory students I think it was that saw the words ‘TRUMP’ in chalk. They all require mental health assistance because of it. They actually need to get their asses kicked and find out what the world is really like. Do away with the Ivory Towers at these place and require all to participate in the education process.

    We had mainly TA’s teaching back then and I would guess its the same now and the ‘prof’s’ get the big bucks or close to it so they can do their ‘research’ or whatever they do. So if they dont teach al the classes they get paid less, and if they want to leave for greener pastures let them. The state constitution said that college education is to be as close to free as possible, yet that is no longer the case. Kids want an education but its more like a party scene and no real responsibility to learn. But it also begins at the grade and HS levels as I posted in a message about the kids from texas last week or so. Dont know who was in the ‘war between the states’ or who won! I know many of the local school kids are in the same situation, but they all want to be catered to and know nothing!

    • Today’s costs are actually close to $6,000 per semester. Factor in books and the insane amount they charge for parking and you’re looking at close to $14K a year to attend UA. If you look at the salaries of some of these administrators, it’s absolutely ridiculous. We have public school teachers earning chump change and on the opposite end of the spectrum, University administrators being paid ridiculous salaries. Nobody is going to be able to afford college in the not so distant future.

  6. If the AZ “higher education” costs are similar to those in most other states, a large part of the increased cost comes from a large increase in administrators. Part of the increase was due to an increase in the numbers of majors in non-traditional areas such as “X Studies.” A major part of that increase was due to the increased portion of the budget coming from the federal government, always with strings and associated administrative costs. Most administrators I knew were less able to read a budget than I but dependent on federal funding for their jobs. Some administrators professed interest in “reducing costs” but the question: “How?” was met with shuffling silence. Maybe if more university presidents had a clue about costs and cost control …

    • Dale as good writer as you are you need to pursue this avenue of discussion. Simple accounting procedures (check book level) would reveal the problem clearly. The word overhead is horribly misunderstood especially when couched in “administrative costs”! When it comes to academics, never has there been a more useless gathering of talking heads blowing smoke up everybody’s derriere. We have got to end this crippling heresy of “degree” worship that permeates our thinking. To hear them tell it the world would collapse without them. I don’t think so.

  7. It is a business not about education. Undergrads are just a fat cashier and the University is robbing our young blindly.

  8. It is absurd for the Chairman of the Board of Regents to claim that the Arizona university system has been engaged in a massive effort to cut costs. What would have been correct is a statement that the university system has cut learning opportunities for students while increasing tuition and fees for everyone they could and increasing the percentage of the budget going to bureaucrats and other worthless hacks like part-time UA President Ann Weaver Hart.

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