A committee of the Arizona House today advanced a bill that I find incredibly offensive on a personal level. Arizona HB 2675 would mandate that any student at one of the 3 state universities must personally contribute at least $2,000 of his or her own money to tuition each year, or $1,000 a semester. This proposal came about because one anomalous year, nearly half of students at those universities did not pay any tuition. According to the Regents, that figure was 36% last year and is now closer to 24%. Backers of the legislation say this encourages all students to have some "skin in the game." (Students on athletic scholarships and some merit scholars (no more than 5% of the student population) would be exempt from this requirement.)
The specific language of the proposed bill is actually quite horrifying to me.
A STUDENT MAY NOT USE ANY OTHER SOURCE OF PUBLIC OR PRIVATE FUNDING, INCLUDING GRANTS, GIFTS, SCHOLARSHIPS OR TUITION BENEFITS OR OTHER TYPES OF FUNDING ADMINISTERED BY OR THROUGH A UNIVERSITY OR AN AFFILIATE OF A UNIVERSITY, TO REDUCE OR ELIMINATE THAT STUDENT'S CONTRIBUTION UNDER THIS PARAGRAPH.
Read that. A student can't use a private scholarship to meet that $2,000 contribution. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I was in college and law school, I scrounged to find every possible $500 and $1000 scholarship I could apply for. I got a couple, too, which came in very handy when I had to buy textbooks and food. I'm not entirely sure how I would have kept that money separate from my scant other funds and proven that I "earned' the $2,000 I paid in tuition rather than got it the slacker's way of tracking down, applying for, and winning scholarships.
The even more glaring part, though, is that a student can't use gifts to meet the contribution. Meaning their parents or grandparents can't give them the money. Goodness, what about college funds that were started when students were babies and that were increased on every birthday and Christmas through gifts from grandparents and aunts and uncles? Most of all, does this mean that parents, as a matter of law, can't pay in full for their children to attend college?
This is the part where I get really angry. Because here's my deep, dark secret (not really). My parents paid for my college. They paid for my tuition. They paid for my room and board. (Actually, they paid for my sister's room and board for 4 full years. They only paid for my board one year. The other 3, it never occurred to them that maybe some of the money they saved by me living in a college house where I didn't have to eat in the dorms should come to me since my 8 hour a week work study job left me with about $17 a week on which to eat.) They paid for my college just as their parents paid for theirs. And just as I would pay for any kid of mine. That's how we do things in my family. And I resent the hell out of anyone suggesting that this means I was some moocher who didn't have any skin in the game.
My parents worked hard to put me and my sister through college. They did it with pride and it would have been the ultimate disrespect to them had I not taken college seriously, flunked or dropped out, or, most of all, not let them do this for me. Many times in recent years, I have read and heard a lot of hostility being expressed toward those of us whose parents paid for college. As if that makes me an entitled, lazy mooch. As if it makes my parents enablers who can't say no to their spoiled brat. And now this. Members of a state legislature trying to make it a matter of law that students have to make a financial contribution to their own college tuition, no matter how much the parents want that not to be the case.
I'm not ashamed that my parents paid for my college. I'm honored that they made that possible for me. I would never disrespect them by not passing that favor on to any child of my own. I still would have figured out a way to go to college without their help, but I'm thankful I didn't have to. No Arizona student should be denied the opportunity of having willing and able family put them through college. Nor should any bright, industrious Arizona students who pound the pavement seeking out private scholarships be made to get a job or take out a loan if they were successful in finding other funding sources. Why should the legislature have any "skin in the game" of forcing students to work a job (or jobs) while attending college if it's not necessary?
Here's a thought, Arizona House. How about you worry about funding the state universities and keeping tuition costs as low as possible and let the students and their families (and all those private organizations that give out those little, private scholarships) worry about where the tuition money comes from?