A state senator thinks he has found a way to make a $1,000 tuition hike imposed on state university students a bit more palatable.
S en. Slade Mead, RAhwatukee Foothills, has drafted legislation that would require the Arizona Board of Regents to permit students to pay tuition in four installments during a semester.
For an Arizona resident seeking a bachelor’s degree, SB1031 would cut the payments to less than $450 each.
The idea has the general support of Regents president Chris Herstam. He pointed out that the board voted earlier this year to permit — but not require — the universities to adopt payment plans.
So far Arizona State University and the University of Arizona have set up plans. But each requires payments to be made in thirds. And both require students to pay an additional $75 enrollment fee if they choose that option.
Northern Arizona University permits students to make five monthly payments, though there is a $50 fee.
The regents approved a $1,000 tuition increase last March, a 40 percent hike bringing undergraduate tuition for Arizona residents up to $3,508 a year. That does not include another $85 in fees.
Board members said they supported the unprecedented hike because it was linked to a significant increase in financial aid. A total of 14 percent of all tuition money is being set aside for financial aid, a figure that computes out to more than $38 million.
Mead said he got a call from Christopher Dang, a constituent who is a student at UA, complaining about the financial impact of the hike. One suggestion was to have lawmakers overrule the regents and kill the hike.
"That’s not going to happen,’’ Mead said he told the student. After further conversation, the senator said, Dang came up with the idea of the mandatory payment plan.
Mead said the idea makes sense.
"We let people pay in installments on lots of things in their lives," he said.
Herstam called it "a good concept." He said, though, he wants to talk with officials at the universities before endorsing what Mead wants to do to ensure that they can administer the plan without problems.
Mead acknowledged that his legislation, as introduced, would encourage students to use the payment plan. That’s because there is no cost for deferring payments while leaving the cash in student pockets in the interim.
He said he will consider it if the regents come back and ask for permission to levy a fee to cover each university’s costs.