COUNTER: Extending benefits would help

Question: Is extending unemployment benefits to students a good idea?

The rising cost of education almost makes having a job a must for students at the University. This is why the state Legislature is rightfully confronting our state Department of Economic Security.

According to The Arizona Republic, DES assumes full-time students are not available to work and, therefore, do not have access to unemployment benefits.

The State Legislature has taken up this issue in House Bill 2295. If passed and made into law, full-time students would be able to successfully apply for unemployment.

Currently, full-time students can appeal and end up receiving benefits if they can show they are both working and going to school. But, the chances of success are slim.

“I have yet to find anyone who has filed for that appeal process and receive unemployment benefits,” said Rep. Barbara McGuire, D-Kearny, the author of the bill.

The timing of this bill could not be better — college is not getting any cheaper.

According to, a national financial aid Web site, the average debt for students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2008 was $23,186.

Unemployment benefits would not make up for all this debt, but it would make life easier for students while they are in between jobs and still in school.

“What about people who have lost their job and are having to go back to school to get a new degree? To me, this is a fairness issue across the board,” McGuire said.

Raising tuition drastically each year does not help students plan out their finances for their college tenure. Money that might be allocated for living expenses, such as rent and food, might now be redirected toward tuition. When a student is in between jobs, the pocketbook will be much tighter. Unemployment benefits will give students some peace of mind that all is not lost if they are out of work.

In order to receive benefits, students would have to prove they are actively seeking employment. This is not a free ride, rather part of the social safety net that will encourage students to be productive.

“[Critics] say the floodgates will open, but that is not so. Do you know anyone who will trade a good paying job for 200 some odd dollars a week?” McGuire said.

Some may believe this state cannot afford to expand unemployment benefits. But the passage of this bill would not affect our state’s fiscal situation.

“The state is not paying for this. The businesses are the ones that have to pay into the unemployment pool. So, the state is not out any money,” McGuire said.

If it will not set the state back fiscally, how can we not afford to expand unemployment benefits to students? Doing so will set us up for success in the future. An investment in Arizona’s students now, is an investment in our state’s future.

“Wouldn’t it assist everyone to help students? Because once they have a degree it will almost assure that they will never need unemployment benefits again, barring another economic catastrophe,” McGuire said.

In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a-changing.” So we must change with them. We need to reevaluate our state’s commitment to students; Arizona can do that by extending unemployment benefits to students.

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