Curtailing the Increasing Costs of Higher Education in Arizona Kevin James Bondelli www.kevinbondelli.


One of the greatest challenges for American families today is the rising cost of higher education. Year after year both resident and out-of-state tuition rates are increased. This is combined with a decrease in the amount of financial aid available for students. Prohibitive costs act as a deterrent for many students to gain a college education. Tuition rates at public universities increase because of a lack of funding by their state legislatures. State legislatures under-fund higher education because students traditionally are not high-efficacy voters and there is no political ramification against them. In order to ensure proper funding and in turn prevent drastic tuition increases, an effective organization must be created to organize students as an efficient voting and lobbying entity. Tuition rates have increased dramatically over the past few years. According to the Christian Science Monitor, “since 1993-94, the new report points out, average tuition and fees have risen 47% ($1,506) at four-year public colleges” ( The article also explains that “a key reason for the tuition tsunami: Cash-strapped states are cutting budgets. Their 1990s largess toward public higher education has already slowed, and for the fiscal year 2003-04 their support for universities is poised to fall by 2% to 3%” ( Chart 1 indicates this trend. It shows a decrease in state appropriation for Arizona State University and an increase in tuition in order to balance the difference.

Chart 1 Financial_Audit_June_30_2004/Arizona_State_University_June_30_2004_Report_Highlights_Financial_ Audit.pdf

In order to prevent the current trend from becoming more drastic, an organization must be created in order to increase the likelihood of greater funding to the universities. The organization’s primary responsibility will be lead students to register to vote in the university’s legislative district and to aid students in voting. Initially, the organization will work to place an early polling place on Arizona State University’s campus. Such a polling place already exists at the University of Arizona. An early polling place would dramatically increase the number of students that would be able and willing to vote. An early polling place is open for thirty days up until the day of the election. This allows students with busy schedules to vote at any time during that month and prevents them from having to wait in long lines on Election Day. The organization will also

register student voters by working with residence halls, student organizations, and political parties. The importance of this is to make students a more efficient voting bloc. State legislators are constantly decreasing the amount of funding for public universities because they know there will be little or no political repercussion for it. Chart 2 shows that only 32.4% of the 18-24 bracket voted in the 1996 Presidential Election, and that the number of voters in that group has decreased since 18-20 year olds were given the right to vote. Chart 2

Legislators tend to respond to requests from organizations that have the ability to affect their election. A politician’s primary concern is for them to remain a politician, and if the organization is able to represent enough registered voters to affect their election, the legislators will be much more likely to increase university funding. Chart 3 shows that

the 18-24 voting block has not been voting nearly as much as other age groups. With students voting at the same rate as the other blocks, student concerns would be much more likely to be addressed. Chart 3

The costs for the creation and operation of this organization in Arizona will come by replacing the Arizona Students Association. All students at Arizona public universities pay $1 per semester to ASA. This creates a large budget that would enable the organization to function. This is possible because the primary role of the Arizona Students Association is to lobby for student issues, however its current structure prevents it from being effective.

Critics will argue that it is near impossible to mobilize voters in college. However, this is not the case. In the past 18-24 voters were disengaged because they felt distanced from the issues that were being discussed. Nothing really seemed to apply to them. The issue of university funding is directly affecting these students, many of whom must go deep into debt or drop out of college because of the cost. With an organizing force, these students would be much more likely to vote than in the past, especially if the organization takes the measures that increase voter turnout such as gaining an early polling place and making available mail-in ballots. The organization would also educate students about the reasons for the tuition increases. Many students believe that it is because of the university presidents or the Board of Regents. If more students were made aware of the fact that they have electoral control of those people that are causing their tuition to increase, voter turnout would be much higher. Another challenge to the proposal is that even is the students were to be organized and become efficient voters, it still would not change the way legislators vote on the issue. Electoral consequences would make legislators more likely to increase the amount of money appropriated to the universities. Legislators would be more willing to move money from less important projects to higher education because of this. No matter what the lobbying group is, a significant block of voters will be able to affect legislative decisions, regardless of age or status. An organization that is effective in educating, registering, and encouraging voting of university students would be able to increase the amount of money appropriated by the state legislature and therefore would decrease the need to raise tuition dramatically. The funding and infrastructure for the organization already exist and it would be invaluable in

obtaining early polling places and other aids to voting efficiency. The concept is similar to any union, a number of people working together to ensure that their interests are not ignored.