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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ASA starts education coalition

    The Arizona Students Association is not sitting on its laurels as Arizona’s university system waits in suspense to see how the state responds to their ever-declining flow of state funds.

    Congressman Raul Grijalva’s daughter was on hand yesterday as ASA launched their new Arizona Voters for Higher Education Coalition at the fountain in front of Old Main. The coalition will focus on keeping education affordable and accessible.

    “”This is not something new. The cuts to education are just astronomical,”” said Adelita Grijalva, Governing Board member of Tucson Unified School District. “”We continually need to tell our legislature that this is not acceptable, that it’s not OK, and your education is valuable and deserves funding.””

    Sustaining 14 cuts in the last 16 years, the UA’s $440 million state-funded budget has been cut down to $363 million, due in large part to the state’s $3 billion budget gap.

    The coalition is open to not only students and members of university communities, but also to any voters concerned about the future of Arizona’s education.

    The $1,100 UA tuition raise for next year was not the beginning, and it won’t be the end if the State Legislature does not start valuing education, said Tommy Bruce, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona.

    “”I think all of us here today are pretty well-aware that it’s bad – it’s a bad situation,”” he said. “”Our own state, the state of Arizona, does not prioritize or put any value into higher education.””

    When the state chooses to leave education in the dark financially, a cycle is set in motion where students who cannot afford to go to college find it increasingly difficult to even get a job in the current economy, said ASUA President-elect Chris Nagata, an ASA Board member.

    “”Let’s face it. With this economy and the way things are looking right now, the university and having a diploma means everything,”” Nagata said. “”We hope that the situation doesn’t become so dire where students are pushed with their backs to the corner.””

    But that’s exactly where some UA students may find themselves in the near future, said Ryan Worden, a political science sophomore who attended the press conference.

    Worden is the first in his family to attend college. When he moved to Tucson as a high school student four years ago, his parents encouraged him to chase his dreams. But with the financial hardships being shouldered by the entire student body, that dream may be in jeopardy of becoming a nightmare.

    “”With the economy the way it is, now is the worst time to increase tuition for Arizona students,”” he said. “”Students who have to work 40 hours a week will have to take up two jobs and work more hours just to be at the same living situation they were at beforehand.””

    By cutting higher education dollars, the state legislature may be inadvertently cutting off its own nose to spite its face, Bruce said.

    As billions of dollars worth of federal grants and research money already go back into state funds, the cutting of university funds will only hurt the state’s own cash flow, he added.

    Instead of sitting back and accepting the cuts, students should continue to fight for what may be their only shot at quality education, Bruce said.

    “”It’s very difficult for any current student at any university to understand why their own state doesn’t believe in their education,”” he said. “”With less support from the state, we are forced to increase tuition. This is something we can no longer stand for.””

    Budget cuts are crippling not only to Arizona’s universities, but to all education, as K-12 schools are already feeling the burden, Grijalva said.

    In a state that has consistently been ranked 49th and 50th in the country for education, Arizonans have seen TUSD’s funding cut by $43 million from a $340 million budget. As a result, the district was recently forced not to renew the contracts of 1,600 teachers.

    “”This is not something that’s going to change in one day. This is not something that’s going to change in a month,”” Bruce said. “”This is a long-termed, focused campaign in order to ensure that the voice of voters in the state of Arizona is heard.””

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