An open letter to Rep. John Kavanagh

Dear Rep. Kavanagh:

I’m an English literature junior at ASU. While maintaining full-time enrollment last year, l worked two part-time jobs, Monday through Sunday, to pay roughly $12,219 for tuition.

Your actions at Arizona’s Appropriations Committee meeting last Wednesday sent an unequivocal message to the young people of Arizona: You do not value higher education and you do not value students. I’m writing to make it clear to you that during the country’s steepest depression, you’ve made it your mission to hurt its most vulnerable citizens.  You should feel deeply ashamed of yourself.

According to Northern Arizona News, you said people “take things they get for free less seriously.” You believe this “contributes to the higher dropout rate.” Implicit in your argument is the lie that you somehow care about students, that your bill is simply tough love proposed to encourage a new generation of fiscally responsible citizens that are more likely to graduate.

You sympathize deeply with the over-burdened taxpayer who is “greatly subsidizing education.” You argue that students have yet to learn that nothing comes for free. We have learned that nothing of value, especially a great education, can come for free. You forget that it was not our generation who broke the housing market by buying homes we couldn’t afford. It was not our generation that amassed the debt that preempted the recession. Even when the federal government helps out, education comes at a cost.

Students take on massive debt for their education. Under House Bill 2675, a student may not use federal funding to lessen their $2,000 contribution, but the student is welcome to seek out private funding — that is, more loans  — to pay for school. While you save taxpayers a few dollars, you lead their children down a road of irreparable debt. How much debt must a student acquire before school becomes “affordable”? Is this how Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, wants us to “invest” in ourselves?  You’re building another generation bound by debt and a culture in which debt is expected. With HB 2675, we will surely have “more skin in the game” for several years after graduating. Paying tuition won’t stop when we graduate: We will spend years paying off the debt accumulated during college.

You’ve been swayed by a misled constituency that votes to ensure Arizona provides the least assistance to its students of the 50 states. You are loyal to the Arizonan that still believes that a minimal tax break is more valuable than a good education. An affordable education benefits all Arizonans. Bear in mind that you’re also threatening the future of Arizonans, who will one day depend on our innovation, not to mention our tax dollars, to “lead more fulfilling lives,” as director of Arizona Student Association Brianna Pantilione said.

Bear in mind that your actions and the actions of your colleagues have alienated an entire demographic of voters. We are not invisible, Mr. Kavanagh, and a lot of us reside in your district. If HB 2675 passes, you can be certain that we will not forget who contributed to the debt crisis of our generation. We will remember what Ugenti said in the face of students working hard to cover their parents’ expenses: “So? Welcome to life.”


A subsidized investment


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