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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Private Priorities: Grants for private schools hurt public.

    The Arizona State Legislature hasn’t even been in session for two weeks, but it’s already taking up where it left off last year – hurting students at public universities.

    Last year, the state Legislature created the Postsecondary Education Grant program to provide financial assistance to students who want to attend private institutions of higher education. And in a stinging rebuke to public universities, the Legislature mandated that PEG funds could only be spent at private institutions.

    The Arizona Students’ Association, a lobbying organization for public university students, opposed the bill, correctly arguing that the state should not be subsidizing students in private institutions while it willfully under-funded others in public universities.

    The bill passed anyway, and $8.2 million was allocated for students in private schools, while financial aid for public university students was left to languish.

    Such willful neglect of the state’s public universities is business as usual for the state Legislature, but now legislators in Phoenix are working to expand the ill-conceived PEG program.

    Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Higher Education approved SB 1069, a bill that has been labeled as a harmless “”implementation”” of the PEG program.

    ASA directors here at the UA were not even aware of the bill because they have not met to discuss legislative priorities. According to ASA Executive Director Serena Unrein in Phoenix, though, ASA has not registered opposition to the bill because it is thought to contain only “”technical corrections.””

    Not so. The bill would increase the number of students who can apply for PEG funding, and it lends momentum to legislators who want to expand the program in the future.

    ASA, therefore, would do well to oppose this latest swipe at public universities, just as it would do well to seek a repeal of the PEG program altogether.

    Legislators responsible for higher education policy, meanwhile, should see the PEG program for what it really is: hypocritical. Imagine what the conservative response would be to state grants that could only be spent at public universities.

    With the bill out of committee, it’s unlikely to meet any resistance before it’s passed to the state House of Representatives. Thus, students and ASA lobbyists alike should pressure Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Jennifer Burns, R-Tucson, to scrap the bill. Anything less would be a serious blow to Arizona’s public universities.

    The state Legislature has made shortchanging students something of a pastime, but the time has come to put an end to reckless funding decisions that will hurt the state’s universities and its economy. We can start by letting them know how we feel; you can contact Rep. Burns at

    Editorials are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Justyn Dillingham, Damion LeeNatali, Stan Molever, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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