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Regents: State attorney general can't challenge tuition

State Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Monday that Arizona has joined a 20-state coalition urging a federal district court in Texas to declare the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate as unconstitutional. (Capitol Media Services file photo/Howard Fischer)

State Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Monday that Arizona has joined a 20-state coalition urging a federal district court in Texas to declare the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate as unconstitutional. (Capitol Media Services file photo/Howard Fischer)

PHOENIX – Lawyers for the Board of Regents told a judge Friday that Attorney General Mark Brnovich has no legal right to challenge the tuition it sets for the state’s three universities – or even the policies used to come up with those numbers.

Joel Nomkin pointed out the last challenge came more than a decade ago when former lawmaker John Kromko and others sued following the regents’ decision to hike tuition by close to 30 percent. They charged – as Brnovich does now – the board with violating a constitutional provision that instruction be “as nearly free as possible.’’

Nomkin reminded Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Connie Contes that the Attorney General Office – then actually defending the regents – argued that such questions are beyond the reach of courts, with the language “not susceptible to judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolution.’’ The Supreme Court agreed, tossing out the claim.

“The only thing that’s changed since Kromko is that the attorney general has switched positions and is now suing his client,’’ Nomkin said.

Assistant Attorney General Beau Roysden does not deny that ruling. In fact, he essentially is conceding that there is no right to challenge the specific tuition figures now exceed $10,000 a year for Arizona residents.

But Roysden said what his boss is contesting is the policy of how the board got to those numbers.

He contends that the plain language of the Arizona Constitution requires the board to set tuition based solely on how much it actually costs to provide instruction.