Saturday, March 27, 2004

Possible tuition hike
draws mixed reactions

Some UH students say the
education quality should
also go up

The prospect of a tuition hike to help fund pay raises for professors drew mixed reactions yesterday from University of Hawaii students, some of whom said that if the cost of attending the institution goes up, so should the quality of its facilities and services.

But a number of students also agreed with the university's administration, saying that tuition at UH is much lower -- especially at the system's flagship campus at Manoa -- than similar institutions, and hikes could be offset by increases in financial aid.

"I don't think tuition increases would be out of the question," said sophomore Ben Stone, who added that some of the extra revenue should be put into campus maintenance.

"It will free up more seats," said Eli Tsukayama, a sophomore at Leeward Community College. "People who don't want to be there won't be there."

Meanwhile, a number of professors expressed concern yesterday about the tentative agreement reached earlier this week that would give them a 31 percent pay increase over six years.

Some doubted the contract's annual hikes would attract professors from other colleges. Others said the largest increases, which come in the deal's final three years, will not be enough to persuade UH faculty with offers at mainland institutions to stay.

"Recruitment is hard, and it will continue to be hard for several years," said computer science assistant professor Kim Binsted.

The contract's raises will cost the state $124 million over the deal's term. The university is expected to kick in an additional $39 million.

UH President Evan Dobelle has said that a tuition hike of as much as 10 percent would likely come through in late 2006, the first year that the university is partly responsible for covering faculty raises.

Based on the university's 2005-2006 tuition schedule, that translates into a $350 jump in tuition for resident undergraduates at UH-Manoa over one year. Out-of-state students would pay almost $1,000 more per year to attend the main campus.

UH's resident tuition with the 10 percent increase -- about $3,850 -- would still be $825 lower than the 2003 national average for public institutions.

But the hike would be larger than the most recent round of increases at the university, which has upped annual undergraduate resident tuition by about $500 over five years.

"They'll probably be excluding some students," said R.J. Martin, a graduate student at Manoa.

He added that the hikes should mirror the rate of inflation.

"It might make the difference (for some) between a college education and not," he said.

Women's studies professor Meda Chesney-Lind said she is "a little sad that our increases will be paid for by student tuition increases." But, she said, "I do think we're still, relatively speaking, a bargain."

Under the deal announced Thursday, faculty members would see a 1 percent increase retroactive to July 1, 2003, in the first year, a 3 percent increase on July 1, and a 2 percent raise in 2005.

The biggest increases begin in 2006, with a 5 percent hike, followed by a 9 percent raise in 2007 and an 11 percent jump in the agreement's final year.

The average salary systemwide for a full professor is currently $77,648. At the end of the contract, the average will be $101,718.

The deal averted a strike.

The agreement now goes to the UH Professional Assembly's board for approval before going to the union's more than 3,000 members for a ratification vote.

The contract was "OK, if you stay for the long-run," said librarian Erica Chang. "Personally, I wanted it changed around," with the large hikes at the beginning of the deal, she said.

The six-year contract is the longest in the state's history, and gives UH "a basis to plan," said professor Stephen Itoga. Colleague Dan Suthers agreed, saying "the structure of it encourages collaboration and long-term planning."

Students lounging in their dorm rooms yesterday or catching up on studying with friends were already mulling the possibility of a years-away tuition increase.

Kelly Nakano, an accounting major, called the school's cost of attendance "remarkably cheap," and history student Elizabeth Camacho agreed. But Camacho stressed that professors aren't the only ones struggling to meet expenses.

"Our parents are going through the same thing," she said.


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