Recently, State Representative John Kavanagh introduced a bill, HB 2675 [pdf], that would establish a minimum tuition that has to be paid by the student. The bill will force students to “pay $2,000 unless they have a full-ride scholarship based on athletics or academics” – effectively getting rid of needs-based full-ride assistance. The bill, if passed, would even restrict students’ ability to pay with other awards: it says that any other awards from a source affiliated with the university cannot be used to pay for tuition. This would include things like this fellowship that I won in my junior year, or countless other awards offered by the university, colleges, centers, and even the university’s foundation, forcing students to either work or take out loans to pay for their education.
The bill has 24 sponsors right now, and the body is comprised of sixty members. It’s not unrealistic to believe that this bill could become law very soon. It was introduced in the House by John Kavanagh, who you might know as the representative who was a staunch supporter of controversial SB1070 and was a big supporter of contracting with private prisons, in addition to the mastermind behind charging people $25 to visit their family members in prison. Not coincidentally, he is also an active member of ALEC and he received donations from prison privatization lobbyists. It looks like he’s now set his sights on higher education.
According to the linked article, Kavanagh thinks that $8,000 in loans isn’t much since those who choose to go to college will make more than those who don’t. Not only does that ignore the fact that many students who get full-ride scholarships still take out loans for cost of living, an $8,000 loan turns into almost $12,000 due to interest. Kavanagh also defends the fact that merit-based full-ride scholarships remain intact by saying that they contribute to the school. Because if you don’t get recognized for your intellect of your athleticism in the form of cash, you must not bring anything to the table. He also argues that tax payers shouldn’t pay for higher education because then students don’t take classes as seriously and because it encourages enrollment of students who aren’t actually ready for college. He actually said that.
It’s important to note that the state constitution says that education must be as nearly free as possible. Instead, Kavanagh thinks it’s appropriate to throw a $2000 tuition increase at the most vulnerable students. The response in Arizona’s universities will be interesting. The universities in Arizona have been hit pretty hard over the years, including massive cuts in state funding over the last three years. Just during my time at ASU tuition has skyrocketed while class sizes get bigger. By law, each university will have to host a public hearing about the law since it constitutes a tuition increase for some students. It will be interesting to see if the student community can mobilize itself enough to speak up about this bill.