The Arizona Desert Lamp

There’s a reason it’s not called the “academic recovery surcharge”

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 11 April 2009

According to the national debt clock, each citizen’s share of the national debt amounts to $36,526.40. Suppose, in an attempt to be all bipartisan chum-chummy, President Obama proposes to pay down half of the debt, “for the children,” by levying a $18,263.20 “national debt reduction surcharge” on every citizen in the country. Families with more children would pay a greater amount, and the only mitigation would be a fund for “debt payment assistance,” derived from NDRS revenue. Such a proposal would be pilloried even by the most rabid Perotistas, and rightly so.

That, however, has not stopped our own president from enacting a similar, top-down, blanket charge on everyone – $1,100, to be exact.

An economic recovery surcharge of $1,100 to base tuition, effective Fall 2009, is approximately half of the identified gap between budget shortfalls and the University’s needed revenues to sustain our quality. This amount allows for a factor for increased need-based student financial aid. The economy recovery surcharge would be double the amount if not for the anticipated infusion of federal dollars from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s State Fiscal Stabilization Fund (SFSF)

While the UA should be impressed that President Shelton can divide such big numbers, but one must wonder why this policy was determined by the administration to be the best approach. After all, it was barely a month ago that the President himself was all atwitter about individual fees  – fees that would be transparent, and controlled entirely by the campus. Now, it seems, President Shelton is content to let the money go to Phoenix’s general fund before coming back to Tucson – where, according to GPSC President Bieda III, anywhere from 25 to 40 percent of the money gets lost in a bureaucratic maze. Furthermore, the excuse of financial aid is a poor one – as anyone who has looked over the SSF breakdown [PDF] knows, 15 percent of the fee monies are allocated to need-based financial aid. Wildcat reporter Ian Friedman was essentially right in calling this surcharge a “fee,” although it’s even worse than that – it combines the undiscerning straitjacket of a flat, mandatory fee with the non-transparent nature of tuition.

It is slowly becoming apparent how resistant President Shelton is to any meaningful reform, and not just in the way of raising money. He has refused to even bring up the idea of differential tuition for undergraduates before the regents, a discussion that could go much further now than it did in 2005. General education is as flawed and noneducational as the day he stepped into office. The new Colleges of Letters, Arts, and Sciences is being touted as a great new thing – which it might have been, if were established ninety years ago, and if it weren’t still a confederation, paling in comparison to the equivalent institutions at our “peer” universities (no matter how you define them). Some may point to the “shocking” development of eliminating the physical education major, ignoring the fact that such a proposal has been in the works since 1994. Meanwhile, the school continues to grant a B.A. in Italian, but relegates Mandarin Chinese to a mere elective (although, amusingly enough, you can get a minor in “Chinese Studies”). President Shelton used the word “quality” seven times in his memo, yet under his watch the class of 2012 is larger and dumber than its predecessors.

In this proposal, President Shelton is implying a quid pro quo. And while UA students are very aware of the quid, many – having opted for the UA over more renowned institutions – are having trouble figuring out where the quo fits in.

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