Opinion: Arizona’s war on scholarships

Jody Michael

Jody Michael

Jody Michael is a junior broadcast journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].

Perhaps some of my readers will be able to explain how the following story makes sense, because I’m not sure that it does.

Last week, an Arizona House of Representatives panel approved a proposed bill that would require all full-time students at Arizona public universities to personally contribute at least $2,000 of their tuition each year.

Seven Republicans voted yes, while two Republicans and four Democrats voted no. The bill has 24 sponsors, all of whom are Republican.

Here’s an example of what the bill would do: If you are a hard-working student from a low-income household who gets good grades in high school and earns a full-ride scholarship from a generous philanthropist, that’s too bad. Some Arizona legislators demand you instead pay your tuition with money you don’t have.

Americans’ total student loan debt just surpassed total credit card debt for the first time ever. The National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys reported this month that the number of student loan debtors has increased significantly in the past few years. In fact, Arizona is among the 10 states with the highest average student loan debt.

Why would anyone want to make this problem even worse? Students attended the committee hearing and spoke against making increasingly important college degrees more unattainable. Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, replied, “Welcome to life.”

This doesn’t have to be what life is like. We have these great things called scholarships and grants. Able and willing donors allow students, who have no control over if their parents are rich or poor, to get a college education.

They don’t go to lazy idiots — the students have to apply, write a persuasive essay, disclose their grades and test scores and meet the university’s enrollment requirements. So why does it matter whether the student or willing donors pay the tuition?

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, claims every student should have some “skin in the game.” No. We should celebrate scholarships and grants that allow students who are talented enough for college, but who can’t afford it for reasons beyond their control, the opportunity of higher education.

Demanding “skin” from people who don’t have any to give is absurdly callous. Weakening the benefits of scholarships and grants would be downright moronic.

Whoever wrote the bill also hilariously included an exception to anyone with an athletic scholarship who is in good standing with the NCAA. How is this fair, considering student athletes generally have lower grade-point averages than non-athletes? Since an overwhelming majority of college athletic departments aren’t financially self-sufficient, students would be paying an increasingly bigger share toward keeping those programs afloat.

This bill isn’t an Arizona law yet, having merely passed through the appropriations panel to now get a full House vote. But why has the bill made it this far in the first place?