Students Aren’t Irresponsible – The Minimum Tuition Bill Is

Amid my short bout of confusion this afternoon over the status of the minimum tuition bill, HB 2675, I contacted the original sponsor, Representative John Kavanagh, asking if the bill had been withdrawn, and received a simple answer that the bill has not been withdrawn and will be discussed in the Appropriations Committee this week (see my update on today’s prior post). In addition, Kavanagh also sent me talking points as to why the bill should be passed, which I have decided to post in its entirety for you:

  • Currently about 48% of students at our state universities pay no tuition at all. Only 5% are academic or athletic scholars. The rest are being given unearned tuition subsidies from the universities.
  • HB2675 requires students, other than academic and athletic scholars, to pay $2,000 of their approximately $9,000 yearly tuition – a mere 20%. They may use their own money, university work-study program money or outside scholarships, grants, gifts or loans, excluding Pell grants, to pay this $2,000.
  • HB2675 still allows the universities to give these students up to $7,000 per year in unearned tuition subsidies, about 80% of their tuition.
  • The $18 million that this frees up will be kept by the universities and may be spent for other purposes, such as tuition rate reductions or improving academics.
  • Even if some students have to take out loans to pay the minimum $2,000 tuition per year and an extra $1,500 per year for fees and books, that still would only amount to a four-year debt of $14,000, which is less than the cost of a Chevy Sonic. Our state university degrees are worth far more than the cost of a Chevy Sonic. In addition, based upon an inspection of university parking lots, students have no trouble getting car loans for greater amounts and paying them off.
  • These unearned tuition subsidizes, which pay the full tuition of non-academic and non-athletic scholars, cause several unintended negative consequences:
    • The free tuition often makes it cheaper for students to attend universities rather than community colleges, which lures some less academically prepared students to universities, when they would be better served going to smaller, more teaching-focused community colleges for a year to two before going to impersonal university with greater distractions. As a result, some of these students fail or drop out, lowering the completion rates of our state universities, which lowers their national ratings and devalues the worth and prestige of their past, present and future degrees.
    • When students pay nothing towards their tuition, some take their studies less seriously and then fail to graduate. This lowers the completion rates of the universities, their national ratings and the value of their degrees.
    •  Taxpayers who generally do not have university degrees wind up paying the tuition of those who will statistically earn one-half to a full million dollars more in salary over their lifetimes. This is unfair.
    • Currently, nearly half of all in-state undergraduates pay no tuition due to this unearned subsidy, which extends this aid well beyond the poor.

Kavanagh repeatedly refers to need-based full-ride scholarships as “unearned tuition subsidies,” arguing that completing the admissions process and qualifying for funding based on financial necessity is not enough to warrant being awarded the funds to pay for education. Again, we are seeing a division being made between the academic and athletic scholarship recipients, who “earn” (and by extension, deserve) their scholarships, and those who apparently receive unwarranted scholarships. And he covers for it by saying that he’s only making them pay a mere 20%, a mere $2,000 a year. But that’s precisely why people receive these types of scholarships – because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to afford the education for which they are striving. To call this anything other than a war on the lower class is to admit that you’re not paying attention.

But it’s not enough to force the poor to pay for tuition that they can’t afford. Why not add a dose of condescending humor? Kavanagh decides to compare the overall cost of tuition to a cheap car, assumes that value equals dollars rendered and nothing else, and then says this:

…based upon an inspection of university parking lots, students have no trouble getting car loans for greater amounts and paying them off.

What kind of assholey argument is that? Kavanagh is ignoring that transportation – like education – is often a necessity, while simultaneously ignoring that a large number of students rely solely on public transportation to reach campus. He ignores that students sometimes need cars to get to jobs to help pay for rent, books, and other costs – things that a full-ride scholarship still doesn’t cover. He’s ignoring that, without a scholarship to cover tuition costs, paying for things like cars – or even parking on campus – is difficult for many. He’s also ignoring that students are individuals worth more respect than his little jab at fiscal responsibility conveys.

The fact that Kavanagh thinks that students – especially poor ones – are irresponsible and unable to make good decisions is continually reinforced with every bullet point. It goes beyond “students who get scholarships waste money on cars.” Students who can’t afford higher education don’t deserve a chance to get it. Students who successfully get admitted to research universities aren’t committed or prepared enough to finish college. Students who don’t pay for their education don’t value it and as a result won’t try hard. Those who want to pursue higher education, but can’t afford it, don’t deserve the help of the community that would benefit from their work.

That this type of legislation can be seen as anything but an attack on the poor is absurd. And yet it’s only when the marginalized (or in the case of Occupy, the newly marginalized) try to stand up that it’s called class warfare. This is just one of many instances in which the legislature is trying to put more pressure on those that have little and are striving for more. It’s a shame that this type of legislation is even seeing the light of day in a time when more and more people are being squeezed by the recession and are fighting to attain a higher education. Students aren’t irresponsible for aiming to get an education. However, it is irresponsible for the government to try to walk away from its obligation to provide an education to residents that are a part of the community, help fund the institution, and want to be educated.

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One thought on “Students Aren’t Irresponsible – The Minimum Tuition Bill Is

  1. Pingback: Arizona’s Progressive Constitution – 100 Years Ago | Yafata.com

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