Coalition of Student Leaders President Peter Finn challenged former University of Alaska President Mark Hamilton's contention that tuition increases were simply the equivalent of the cost of a latte for students.
"How many lattes would a student have to give up to cover these increases?" he asked.
Hamilton proposed the increase before leaving office last summer.
Following years of annual increases that significantly exceeded the rate of inflation, students were no longer facing a minimal additional expense, he said.
"We're not talking about latte money, we're talking about a dividend," said Nikki Carvajal, student government president from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Some of the testimony was compelling:
Regent Mary K. Hughes of Anchorage said Alaskan education was still relatively inexpensive compared to similar universities in the western U.S.
"All of these other universities raised far more than we've raised, and they've started higher," she said.
Finn responded that Alaska was doing very well economically, while many of those other states were not.
"I think we should look at their economic situation and compare it to ours," he said.
Alaska also provides little help for students from poor families, he said.
"We are the worst state in the nation as far as need-based financial aid," he said.
Alaska has a budget surplus, while many of the other states have deficits and are making big cuts.
Carvajal called the proposed increase "particularly heartbreaking," because students fought hard against it last year, and thought they'd persuaded regents to scale it back then. Now, they're considering doing what they've not done in recent memory, revising upwards an already established tuition level.
"When the board sets this tuition rate, they're telling us whether or not they can afford schools," she said.
Tom Hewitt, a UAF student, recounted a story of a fellow student in Fairbanks, who worked with him at the school's student paper. She was forced to leave school because of financial problems, and took a job at Safeway. She was recently moved into the in-store Starbucks.
"Instead of reporting for the Anchorage Daily News or the News-Miner, (she) is now serving those lattes, eight hours a day, five days a week," he said.
Here's a link to Alaska Public Radio's report from Thursday.
I polled students in classes on Wednesday and Thursday. None welcomed the tuition hike. Most were surprised at how big they are beginning to look to be. Some felt they may have to leave with the added costs. I've already noticed that kids taking my music appreciation class are having a very hard time coming up with the money to go to concerts presented by the Anchorage Symphony or Anchorage Concert Association, and are looking toward attending free concerts or very inexpensive ones.
Signs like the two posted here (I photographed them in the fine arts building) are all over campus at UAA.
I trust that the tuition hike will not get me a raise, certainly not a 23% raise. As a full-time adjunct, I have no health benefits, and I think my retirement from my union contract, even after teaching part- or as full-time as I'm allowed to instruct for 15 years, will probably net me $23.00 per month, should I keep on teaching until I'm 66 - three more years. I have what may be the biggest student class load on campus - 247 students from three classes. From the tuition paid to the university and profits from textbook sales by my students to take my classes, the system brings in $1,000,000.00 more than they pay me every 38.5 months.
That's the way it is. I'm certainly not complaining, as I love teaching at UAA and especially enjoy working with the faculty and staff at UAA's Department of Music. But there are hundreds of other adjuncts whose activity brings in far more money to the schools than the workers are paid.