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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Work-study bill passes higher ed committee

    PHOENIX – In an effort to keep the smartest students in Arizona after graduation and match them with a fitting job, state representatives are moving along a bill that would introduce a work-study program for qualified students.

    HB 2296, which is backed by the Arizona Students’ Association, would match in-state college students with a job related to their studies, with the possibility that they stay with that employer after graduation.

    The program also is seen as a form of financial aid, as the majority of employers would be given to students based on financial need.

    The bill passed the House Higher Education Committee yesterday and is scheduled to be heard by the Appropriations Committee. A similar bill was introduced last year, but was not signed into law.

    “”The idea is to keep our best and brightest in the state of Arizona,”” said the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bill Konopnicki, R-Safford. “”To get them the job experience they couldn’t get anywhere else.””

    Konopnicki talked to several potential employers, and he said most were excited about the bill. They include electronic firms, state and county governments, school districts and smaller businesses.

    The student position must be “”intellectually challenging”” and must relate to the students’ career goals, according to the bill. It must have been created for the student and cannot be used to substitute other workers.

    “”I think that there’s no doubt that this is something that any student would be supportive of,”” said Erin Hertzog, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. “”It’s a new, innovative way of providing financial aid. It’s a huge priority.””

    Hertzog said it becomes increasingly important for students to get hands-on experience in addition to classroom work.

    “”It is a job. It is a financial aid opportunity. It molds all the components that you would like to see,”” said Hertzog, who also is a board member of ASA.

    A total of $5 million would be appropriated once to the Arizona Work Study Fund, which would be established and administered by the Arizona Commission on Postsecondary Education. If the program proved successful, the money flow could be established permanently, Konopnicki said.

    Under the bill, half of the students’ salary would be paid for by the study fund, while the employer would pay the other half.

    One of the two people who voted “”no”” on the bill was Rep. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, who said a program like this should not be prescribed by the state government. Instead, businesses and colleges should tackle the issue.

    Barto, who also voted against the measure last year, said she still values work-study programs and hopes to see them established in the future, but under different conditions.

    But Rep. Jennifer Burns, R-Tucson, who is also the chairwoman of the Higher Education Committee, said the state should provide an incentive for employers, who go out of their way to create the new position and oversee the students.

    Burns also added that the government already supports students through financial aid, only this time they would be working for the financial support, instead of loaning it or getting it for free.

    “”It provides students the opportunity to start paying for their college education,”” she said. “”It connects them with the business community so they can start learning their skills.””

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