FILE - Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich 

Arizona's Supreme Court has agreed to review an appeal from Attorney General Mark Brnovich in a lawsuit challenging the Arizona Board of Regents over skyrocketing tuition and fees across the state’s public universities.

“Today, the people of Arizona are one step closer to getting to the bottom of why in-state tuition has increased more than 300 percent since 2003,” Brnovich said in a news release.

Brnovich also thanked the high court for “a glimmer of hope – an open door for a necessary debate regarding the authority of the Attorney General to defend the state constitution and affordability of higher education at our public universities.”

State government was ordered to pay nearly $1 million in lawyer fees and other trial costs associated with the lawsuit filed by Brnovich in 2017. Last year, a state appeals court upheld a district court's ruling that Brnovich did not have standing to sue the board of regents.

Regents chair Larry E. Penley released a statement on Feb. 7 calling the lawsuit from Brnovich unwarranted, unfortunate and a waste of tax dollars.

“Valuable taxpayer dollars and public resources have been wasted at the expense of the Attorney General’s choice to pursue litigation rather than consultation,” Penley said. “Once the suit was filed, the board had no choice but to defend itself vigorously with experienced and highly qualified counsel.”

One of the central arguments to Brnovich’s initial lawsuit is a constitutional mandate that tuition for public universities should be as cheap as possible. Brnovich is expected to argue this claim before the Supreme Court.

“The board continues to feel strongly that the Attorney General’s ongoing pursuit of this unnecessary lawsuit and its false narrative have a negative impact on the people of Arizona,” Penley said in a press statement in response to the Supreme Court’s announcement. “This, at a time when we should all be working together to support students across the educational spectrum including preparing them to seek education past high school."

Both parties have until March 2 to file supplemental briefs with the court. Oral arguments will be scheduled later.