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Sun, April 21

Editorial: Tuition hikes are short-sighted

Things are tough all over, but never has Arizona been so systematically stacked against those working to advance individual opportunity for the good of the state's future. Yes, it's been a rough week for Arizona's college students.

We learned in a report this week that Arizona has the nation's highest overall default rate on federal student loans - 9.8 percent in fiscal year 2007, the latest year available. The average loan for a student earning a bachelor's degree at a public university is $17,700, the study added.

Then came more bad news from those very state schools that already are priced out of students' affordability. This past Sunday, the Arizona Board of Regents approved steep tuition increases at all three state universities. Prescott's own Yavapai College on Tuesday also approved increases in tuition, dorm fees and meal plan fees.

The bad news this week was timely but hardly new news.

The Center for the Future of Arizona, a Phoenix-based nonprofit that combines public-policy research with initiatives, partnered with Gallup to release a poll this past October called "The Arizona We Want," a five-year study that flat-out concludes what Arizona apparently doesn't want: an educated populace.

When the poll asked respondents to rate their city or area as a place to live for various groups of people, a mere 11 percent said Arizona was "very good" for "young talented college graduates looking to enter the job market." The "very good" Arizona lifestyle for college graduates ranking was the lowest of all state demographics studied, including gays, immigrants and ethnic minorities.

And taxpayers? They, too, told college students to take a hike.

Only 18.5 percent of poll responders said they would favor their tax dollars going toward "raising graduation requirements in math, science and language to make Arizona students more competitive with students from other states and countries." The poll also examined which ideas citizens would support with their tax dollars. Education, again, ranked dead last when only 11.9 percent supported using their tax dollars to "help Arizona students prepare for the jobs of the future."

This week's discouraging news for Arizona college students served only to set their goals back even more.

"The quality of education we provide," Pat Esparza, faculty member of Mesa Community College, said in the poll, "also drives job creation because employers come to a place and prosper when they have access to an educated and skilled workforce."

Thanks but no thanks, the Arizona culture says.

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