Our Take: More Arizona Students Can Access University Education, But State’s Goal of “Almost Free” Education Still A Long Way Off | Opinion


Thousands of high school students in Arizona can now get free tuition through a new scholarship program. The Arizona Promise program offers scholarships to low-income students that will fully cover tuition and fees in all three state university systems.

The goal of making higher education more accessible to students is a good goal, and the scholarship program is celebrated as a “necessary step for a future strong economy in the state”.

Just one problem: Arizona has always claimed to value accessibility to higher education – so much so, in fact, that the first rulers of the state incorporated it into the state constitution.

The Arizona Constitution requires that tuition fees for college students be kept “as free as possible.” They’ve left open to interpretation what those words mean, of course, but it’s a safe bet that anyone looking at today’s tuition rates will agree that they are not the original intention.

To its credit, the Arizona Board of Regents and university systems have been reluctant to increase costs for students and their families in recent years. The board has approved the tuition fee increase for Arizona resident undergraduates over the past two years.

No increase, however, does not mean there are no costs. The average tuition fee in the state at Arizona State University is $ 11,338. At the University of Arizona, the cost is $ 12,384. Northern Arizona University tuition and fees are $ 11,381.

Arizona higher education institutions are certainly competitively priced, and they’re still a steal, but they’re far from “nearly free.”

Of course, some would say this is a worn-out argument – a 2019 tuition lawsuit by Attorney General Mark Brnovich was dismissed by the Arizona Court of Appeals. We don’t think the matter is settled. The reason the court dismissed the lawsuit was that Brnovich lacked the authority to sue the universities, not that his claim was unfounded.

The Arizona Board of Regents and Arizona state lawmakers must agree on how to lower tuition fees, even with higher costs and increased demand.

Good for lawmakers to meet the needs of some students with the scholarship program. But they have a lot of work to do before they stop violating the constitution.

– Today’s News-Herald


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