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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Committee passes financial-aid bill

President Robert Shelton, seen in a 2006 file photo, discuses tuition increases. Shelton and presidents from other Arizona universities are asking the state for more money to help students with financial-aid.
President Robert Shelton, seen in a 2006 file photo, discuses tuition increases. Shelton and presidents from other Arizona universities are asking the state for more money to help students with financial-aid.

PHOENIX – With ASU, UA and NAU presidents pleading their case for more support at the Legislature Wednesday, the Senate Higher Education committee passed a financial-aid bill that would allocate millions to the state’s university students.

Senate Bill 1137 would allow almost $6.3 million to flow into the Arizona Financial Aid Trust Fund, which is comprised of state funds, money from students’ tuition and the interest earned on the total amount.

The measure passed with an amendment that added almost $1.3 million to the $5 million initially proposed by the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Richard Miranda, D-Tolleson.

Before the bill was considered, presidents from all three Arizona universities stated their schools’ different missions, presented plans for the future and discussed with lawmakers how to tackle funding problems.

When SB 1137 passed in the the meeting’s last minutes, the importance of the measure to the schools was clear.

“”The state support to the university is absolutely crucial, and I thank you for that,”” UA President Robert Shelton said in his address to the senators.

Several other lawmakers signed onto the bill, including Sen. Jorge Luis Garcia, D-Tucson and Sen. Victor Soltero, D-South Tucson.

The bill will be heard next by the Appropriations Committee before moving to the Senate floor.

“”This is our pitch to do it,”” Garcia said. “”Student associations have always asked for it.””

The sum of $6.3 million equals what Gov. Janet Napolitano suggested for financial-aid allocations in her state budget proposal two weeks ago.

Devin Mauney, chairman of the Arizona Students’ Association, spoke in favor of the measure.

“”Financial aid remains an important part of what this committee will be doing this year for the students of Arizona,”” said Mauney, an ASU student. “”This bill is extremely important. It would help an increasing number of students to be able to afford higher education.””

While the bill represented a large step for the university community, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona, said he would like to get together again with the presidents to find out exactly how much money they would need to get their institutions up to the standards they strive for.

All three men agreed to such a meeting, and ASU President Michael Crow pointed out an ASU study that suggested the school needs $8,000 per student per year from the state, up from the current amountof less than $1,000.

“”We believe in the ASU model,”” Crow said. “”We can make that work.””

NAU President John Haeger emphasized his university’s importance to the economy of northern Arizona, and Shelton reiterated the UA’s goal to provide ongoing service to the public as a land-grant university.

“”The key is to ensure that we can out-compete everybody else,”” Shelton said. “”We are dedicated to bringing excellence in multiple fields that society is wrestling with at this day and age.””

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