Legislator withdraws controversial tuition bill

Student activists declared victory Thursday after Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, confirmed he withdrew House Bill 2675.

The bill would have required many undergraduate Arizona university students to pay $2,000 toward their tuition, giving exemption only to students on athletic or national merit-based scholarships.

“I’m dropping it,” Kavanagh said. “It’s become so controversial that it is just becoming a distraction to other bills.”

Kavanagh said he received 15 to 20 phone calls and hundreds of emails Wednesday requesting that he withdraw the legislation.

“Many of them were organized emails, which don’t weigh as heavily as an originally authored one, but they still had an effect,” Kavanagh said.

He said misinformation, such as unclear descriptions of which students would be exempted from the tuition increase, caused unrest among committee members who would have otherwise voted in favor of the legislation.

“Misinformation caused doubt in members of the committee — which makes them hesitant to vote for something like this,” Kavanagh said.

James Baumer, vice president of student policy for Undergraduate Student Government and political science senior, said the withdrawal of HB 2675 was a huge relief.

He said USG worked diligently to oppose HB 2675 and was unable to concentrate on anything else, such as advocating for disparity funding at ASU.

“It’s sad that we have to have our efforts focused on maintaining the status quo rather than being able to work toward other things,” Baumer said. “We’re relieved and happy it’s been taken off the agenda. We just wish we had been able to work for more substantial, positive agendas during that time.”

Baumer also said the bill was never about encouraging students to invest in their education — it was about targeting the poorest students who receive need-based aid.

“The under-the-surface intent was to make the neediest students pay more,” Baumer said in an email. “The sponsors of the bill saw students with financial needs receiving money as being a welfare program inconsistent with their very conservative ideology.”

Business management freshman Sara Grafton said she was “beyond excited” to hear the legislation was no longer being pursued.

“I really didn’t like it because for people like me — who are mainly here on scholarship — it’s just not fair,” Grafton said. “Not everyone has parents and family to help them. Now that I know it’s taken care of, it’s really relieving. “

Landscape architecture sophomore Evan Yatabe said the bill targeted lower income students and would have made it difficult for anyone to attend a university.

He also said Kavanagh should think about his bills before proposing them.

“Think of all the economic factors,” Yatabe said. “Try not to target certain people. Make a better plan. Ask students their opinion before acting on it.”

Kavanagh said taxpayers appreciate any small way their tax dollars can be spent more wisely.

“None of these people were saying it was a small amount,” Kavanagh said. “This is all about spin and context. In the end, taxpayers give money to the universities.”

Kavanagh said HB 2675 is not a bill he would attempt to pursue again.

 

Reach the reporter at kmmandev@asu.edu

 

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