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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Regents must stand up to Legislature

The Arizona Board of Regents has made the decision to reduce the Regents High Honors Endorsement, better known as the AIMS scholarship, by a whopping 75 percent. The decision to alter the scholarship came by a 9-1 vote Thursday at the board’s Tempe meeting.

The regents rationalized the mammoth cuts to the scholarship by claiming that, while they wish to honor the commitment to providing financial aid to Arizona students who perform well on the AIMS test, there simply isn’t room in Arizona universities’ budgets to fund the scholarship in its current manifestation. The changes are expected to save Arizona universities approximately $4 million annually.

Regent Ernest Calderon lamented, “”I don’t want to change the AIMS scholarship, but I don’t see the budget there that allows it to stay the way it is.”” His sentiments seem to reflect the regents’ overall perspective on changing the scholarship — it’s not what they want, but it has to happen.

That’s not altogether true, as some regents noted. Regent Mark Killian suggested creating a fund to finance the scholarship in conjunction with the State Legislature. “”It just needs to happen,”” he said.

Killian is right. The AIMS scholarship, especially now that it includes criteria involving high SAT and ACT scores, making it more viable as a merit-based award, is an important commitment to honor. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne gave voice to this sentiment in his address to the board, saying, “”When this program was put into place, it was successful beyond anyone’s wildest dreams.”” Overstated as his remark may be, Horne cited statistics showing that students who receive the AIMS scholarship have higher grade point averages in college than those without it. The scholarship seems to have a positive impact on students’ performance in college, which in turn improves the universities they attend overall.

But the numbers just don’t crunch; Arizona universities can’t afford to continue to provide the scholarship, beneficial or not. What’s a board of regents to do?

Truly, what the regents should have done was keep the scholarship intact and ask — nay, demand — that the State Legislature help fund it. Unfortunately, the board has proved itself time and time again to be utterly incapable of standing up to a childish, vindictive Legislature.

In a discussion about a different funding issue, Killian worried that requesting additional state monies for higher education would be seen as “”a poke in the eye”” to some legislators. Regent Chair Anne Marriuci called the state’s budget slashing of higher education “”draconian,”” but was similarly apprehensive about petitioning the state government for more funding.

To put it crudely, the board of regents needs to man up. It is charged with doing what’s best for the institutions it represents — the UA, ASU and NAU — not tiptoeing around a big old legislative bully. Yes, the Legislature has the potential to exercise its power in spiteful ways, as it has proved time and time again when it comes to higher education. The current crop of lawmakers doesn’t value a university education, as they have all made amply clear.

But the board of regents does value universities. Its job is to value them. And in carrying out that task, ABOR can’t continue to quake in its boots every time the Legislature says, “”boo!”” The question of state funding for the AIMS scholarship was barely floated by a handful of regents and received minimal attention. ABOR is hesitant even to ask for what it needs from the body charged with providing it. The hesitation is understandable, but cowardly.

Allowing fear of the Legislature to block the Arizona Board Of Regents’ ability to carry out its duty to Arizona’s universities is unfair. The Legislature has proven itself to be an anti-intellectual, vindictive body, but that doesn’t give the board of regents an excuse to give up. The regents must pressure the Legislature even when it seems futile, putting all politicking aside to carry out their duty: giving Arizona students what they need.

— Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Heather Price-Wright, Luke Money, Colin Darland and Steven Kwan. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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