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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Bill allots $8.2M in scholarships for private colleges

    PHOENIX – A House appropriation committee yesterday approved an $8.2 million voucher program for students pursuing their bachelor’s degree at private Arizona institutions.

    SB 1446 would give students a $2,000-a-year scholarship to a private institution on a first-come, first-served basis regardless of financial need or academic merit.

    The bill’s main proponent, Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, said the bill was good public policy.

    “”We need to be serving students in our state, not our institutions,”” said Knaperek.

    The bill was initially written by Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, but Knaperek’s strike-everything amendment stripped away the original language of the bill, supplanting it with her voucher program.

    Knaperek said her bill is merely a pilot program, limited to 4,100 students at private institutions.

    She told the committee the program also includes a measure that forms a study committee to gauge whether the program is successful.

    The bill drew sharp criticism from both House Democrats and the Arizona Students’ Association, who said the Legislature should be funding students in public universities, not students taking classes at for-profit private institutions.

    Rep. Linda Lopez, D-Tucson, criticized the program saying $2,000 a year wouldn’t pay for much at a private institution. She gave the example of the University of Phoenix, where tuition is $15,000 a year. In that case, the scholarship money would be better spent at a state university, she said.

    “”It certainly wouldn’t go far (at a private college),”” said Lopez. “”But it would certainly help students going to state universities.””

    Knaperek was confident her bill would be approved by both the House and the Senate as well as receive the necessary funding in the yet-to-be-released legislative budget.

    But Knaperek said she was upset by comments made by a representative from the Arizona Students’ Association, an independent lobbying advocate for university students, who wanted state funding to be directed to students in public universities.

    She said she couldn’t believe ASA was making a case for more financial aid for its students despite the news of an ASU program that offers free tuition to some of its poorest students.

    Chris Dang, an ASA representative, said he has not heard of the ASU program and was disappointed the bill had passed through another House committee.

    Dang, who was not at the hearing, said the state of Arizona last year set aside $1 million in direct funding for student financial aid. He said Arizona students predominantly get financial aid from private loans and Pell grants.

    Dang said for some students at the UA, a $2,000 scholarship could make the difference between whether a student can afford to continue to go to school.

    High-profile institutions where students could use the vouchers include Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Art Institute of Phoenix, Grand Canyon University, DeVry University and University of Phoenix.

    But vague language in the bill stating vouchers could be used at any “”baccalaureate program at a national or regionally accredited private postsecondary educational institution in this state that awards four-year baccalaureate degrees”” will allow students at smaller, lesser-known colleges to apply for the voucher.

    Those eligible institutions include: American Indian College of the Assemblies of God, Scottsdale Culinary Institute, University of St. Francis and Wayland Baptist University.

    The bill will be heard next on the floor of the House.

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