The cost of higher education in Arizona is now among the highest in the nation, due in large part to tuition increases and state revenue cutbacks over the past decade.

Federal statistics show only a few states have been able to restore the level of funding allocated to colleges and universities since the 2008 recession took hold. Tuition at Arizona’s four-year state universities during the past decade rose 92.4 percent, trailing only the 106.9 percent increase for Louisiana students. In actual dollars, that increase translated into an additional $5,384 per student in Arizona, which was the highest in the nation.

During that same period, Arizona lawmakers reduced the amount of funding allocated to state universities by almost 55 percent, which represents a decrease of $3,669 per student, the fourth-highest drop among states.

While the cost of a four-year university has gone up in Arizona, the cost of Cochise College has remained affordable. Tuition at the local community college is $1,968 per year for in-state residents, which is 44 percent cheaper than the national average for public two-year tuition cost of $3,532. The cost is 47 percent cheaper than the average Arizona tuition of $3,725 for two-year colleges.

We’re not placing all the blame on the State Legislature for the dramatic drop in state funding, or the offsetting tuition increase on the board of regents.

Both steps were unfortunate necessities when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2008 and the state faced a billion-dollar budget deficit.

What we are urging is a return to prioritizing higher education in Arizona, now that the state’s economic fortunes have turned around and state government is looking at a significant surplus entering the 2020 fiscal year.

Arizona voters authorized a plan to issue revenue bonds for state universities in 2018, which has and will continue to help four-year colleges maintain and improve infrastructure, but more needs to be done to make the cost of higher education more affordable for in-state students.

Until that happens, students looking to continue their educations beyond high school can cut costs and get a great start on their career by considering one of the best community colleges in the nation, right here in Cochise County.

—Herald/Review

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