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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    State must play larger role in financial aid

    One week ago, news buffs here on campus were just finding out the results of the mid-term congressional elections. Throughout the weeks and months leading up to Nov. 7’s election, organizations like the UA College Republicans and UA Young Democrats held rallies in support of national politicians like Sen. Jon Kyl and challenger Jim Pederson. It was student involvement at its finest – young people working together to effect real change in their community and their nation.

    However, throughout the process an important component of government was overlooked. With heavyweights like Kyl and Gov. Janet Napolitano getting all the attention, elections in the Arizona state Legislature – an important factor in determining university financial aid, among other things – went largely unnoticed.

    Just last week, the Arizona Daily Wildcat reported that “”the Arizona Legislature provides $6 million every year for financial aid …well below the $100 million national average.”” Of course, financial aid comes from a multiplicity of sources – but with recent substantial tuition increases and more of the same likely for next year, every dollar counts.

    Let’s quickly review the status and composition of university financial aid here in Arizona, using figures obtained from the Arizona Board of Regents.

    Last year’s total financial aid awarded to students in all three of the state’s public universities amounted to $932.9 million, according to Anne Barton, the board of regents assistant executive director for public affairs. But the majority of this consists of federal loans and work-study-type programs.

    Institutional (university-funded) financial aid made up the next largest portion of total financial aid.

    So, where is the state’s chip-in? Federal and institutional funds make up the vast majority of the pot, and the state’s contribution amounts to just less than 1 percent of the total.

    The bulk of the state’s Legislature-approved contribution is manifest in the Arizona Financial Aid Trust, which last year amounted to a paltry $5.4 million. Funded jointly by student fees and an appropriation by the Legislature, AFAT funds often go to the state’s neediest students – and that is precisely why they are so important.

    Clearly, the state’s commitment to financial aid is in need of growth. State Rep. Dave Bradley, who represents the university and surrounding neighborhoods, agreed: “”I think the Legislature’s commitment should be expanded. …Every dollar invested in the university brings a monetary return in addition to a social return that contributes to the greater good of our communities.””

    Those aren’t just the hollow words of a politician – recent actions on the part of Bradley and his fellow legislators back them up. Though AFAT last year distributed only $5.4 million, it was still an improvement over the previous year’s amount of $3.8 million. What’s more, the Legislature recently approved a $5 million increase in financial aid through AFAT, likely because of hard lobbying on the part of organizations like the board of regents and the Arizona Students’ Association.

    The increase will bring the state’s aid contribution up to roughly $11 million – still far below the national average, but important nonetheless because it shows a willingness on the part of the Legislature to reduce the student’s financial burden.

    With tuition and other costs steadily rising, the Legislature’s cooperation will be needed more than ever before. “”We can do much better,”” said Bradley. “”We have an opportunity to expand the state’s commitment to our universities. …This is an issue that goes far beyond providing some loans. It is an issue of economic development as well as justice.””

    Justice indeed.

    Programs like Arizona Financial Aid Trust particularly affect students in dire financial circumstances, giving us further reason to hold our elected state officials to task on financial aid funding.

    After all, that’s our civic duty.

    David Francis is a pre-business sophomore. He can be reached at

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