Support for the University’s recent tuition rate increases may be rapidly dwindling, if last night’s candidates forum for the University Board of Regents is any indication.

Paul Wong
Democrat Ismael Ahmed, director of the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, discusses tuition increases during a forum for University regent candidates.

All eight of the candidates present agreed to limit, if not completely halt, tuition increases. But few concrete plans for increasing the University’s affordability were outlined.

In their opening statements, every candidate said tuition is one of their main concerns, and several of the candidates blamed the University administration outright for past hikes.

Green Party candidate Susan Fawcett, a School of Art student, and Natural Law Party candidate David Arndt said the University is spending too much money constructing new buildings.

“We don’t need a Taj Mahal … The University doesn’t seem to have a conscience, like they’re sleepwalking,” Arndt said. “And the reason is we don’t have people here who know what they’re doing with the money.”

LSA sophomore Pete Woiwode, Michigan Student Assembly communication committee chair and a sponsor of the forum, said the criticisms reflect a general concern on campus that tuition rates are too high.

To deal with these concerns, Arndt and Reform Party candidate Nick Waun, an LSA senior, both said they would not vote for any tuition increases that exceeded the rate of inflation.

Saline Democrat Greg Stephens, a business and financial manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 252, said he will use his experience to limit the University’s construction costs, freeing more money for tuition.

Republican candidate Andrew Richner, a state representative from Grosse Pointe Park, and current Regent Andrea Fischer Newman (R-Ann Arbor), said University administrators are capable of finding creative ways to limit the budget.

The only detailed program was proposed by Green Party candidate Matt Petering, a second-year Rackham student. He offered a tuition stabilization plan directly linked to state government appropriations.

Woiwode said the candidates cannot be certain if they will be able to avoid tuition increases because they do not know what will come up during their terms. He said regents are in a difficult position because they have to decide which programs to fund and how much funding to provide.

All of the candidates said they support a diverse campus, although Petering and Waun said they do not support the University’s current admissions policies. Democrat Ismael Ahmed, director of the Dearborn-based Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, said he supports the policies, while Richner said he does not support quotas, but believes the University should reach out to inner-city communities.

The forum, sponsored by MSA, the League of Women Voters and the Youth Vote Coalition, was held yesterday in Hutchins Hall in the Law School. The eight candidates, along with two other third party candidates who were not present, are running in the Nov. 5 general election for the two available positions on the Board of Regents.

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