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After Lawmakers Vote to Increase Tuition, One Tells Student ‘Welcome to Life’

Arizona_football.jpg

Arizona's Gino Crump (21) celebrates a win over Arizona State after an NCAA college football game on Nov. 19, 2011, in Tempe, Ariz. Under a new bill, student athletes are exempt from paying a minimum of $2,000 in tuition each year.

CREDIT: AP Photo / Ross D. Franklin

Think you have financial aid? Think again.

The Arizona legislature took a step closer recently to requiring all students at state universities to pay at least $2,000 in tuition costs per year to attend a public university, regardless of financial status.

State lawmakers undertook the effort to increase the burden on college students after falsely hearing that nearly half of students in the Arizona State University system did not pay tuition last year due to financial aid or scholarships. The actual number, according to school administrators, is closer to 25 percent.

The only students exempted from the bill are student athletes. That’s right—football and basketball players might not have to pay for their degree, but students from low-income families do.

The bill, HB 2675, still permits schools to offer scholarships, but such aid can only be based on a student’s academic merit and must be limited to just five percent of the student body.

Lawmakers coldly rejected the pleas of more than 100 college students during the committee hearing. The large number of students showed up to oppose the bill, telling legislators that the proposal would make it significantly more difficult to achieve a higher-education degree.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti, a Republican from Scottsdale, shot back: “Welcome to life.”

Before uniting to vote against the bill, Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee scolded some of their Republican colleagues for treating students with “open hostility.”  The bill passed narrowly, by a margin of 7-6.

For Arizona students, being targeted by the state legislature is nothing new. Tuition at the state’s three public universities is already above the national average thanks to several recent tuition hikes.

And as ridiculous as this bill sounds, the Arizona legislature has a penchant for the outrageous. Most notably, the legislature under Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law an extreme, anti-immigrant bill to crack down on the state’s immigrant population.

Support for HB 2675 is high with Republicans, who hold an overwhelming majority in the state legislature, and the bill is likely to pass. If you’re a student in Arizona, you should probably start saving up for the tuition hike. Or, at the very least, start working on your three-point shot.

Graham White was a former intern with Generation Progress and now is on the executive board of the Black Law Students Association at Yale. You can follow him on Twitter @GrahamWhiteNY.

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