Point: A money grab for students

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

Let’s think hypothetically for a minute.

You just graduated high school. You worked full-time your senior year to put away some money for college.

Now imagine that as you begin your first semester of higher education you won’t have to work at all. Better yet, how nice would it be to collect unemployment benefits due to the fact that you’re a full-time student?

Sounds quite enticing, doesn’t it?

Arizona state lawmakers are hoping to do just that. They passed a bill through the state House of Representatives that would make it easier for full-time students to register for unemployment. It now awaits approval from a floor vote that would send it to the Senate.

Until now, anyone going to school full-time has been presumed unable to receive unemployment benefits, according to Steve Meissner, spokesman from the Arizona Department of Economic Security. But that could soon change. and not for the better.

While the number of students the law would affect, if passed by the Senate, is still unclear, the possibility of having more applicants seeking benefits is a scary thought.

In a time when Arizona is still recovering from the recession and the state unemployment rate is at 9.8 percent, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the proposal is creating more strain to the unemployment system than it already has.

Naturally, to create financial amounts large enough to support unemployed full-time students, the amount of money paid out of the state’s benefits trust fund — a fund paid solely by premiums from employers — would have to be raised.

Lobbyist Michelle Bolton from the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce urged lawmakers to reject the change and said that because of the financial predicament Arizona is currently facing, the state will be forced to borrow money from the federal government — not to mention premium increases for businesses are already planned to take effect next year regardless of whether of not the new law gets passed, according to the East Valley Tribune.

“Expanding benefits is not something that the business community is interested in pursuing at any time during this solvency crisis,” said Farrell Quinlan, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, to The Arizona Republic.

Students may have to weigh out the pros and cons before deciding to file for unemployment. To be eligible to receive such benefits, students must change their class times or drop classes to accept full-time work. They cannot have left suitable full-time work or reduced their hours to part time, among other stipulations, according to AZLawHelp.org.

Universities and community colleges may reduce scholarship amounts to students who are receiving unemployment and perhaps even the Free Application For Student Aid (FASFA) will decrease financial help to those who collect unemployment.

While most students could use every bit of money they can get to help pay their way through college, lowering the unemployment standard doesn’t sound like the ideal solution.

It sounds like a way to stir up more havoc for the already-swamped Department of Economic Security and an easy way for students to receive pay without working.

Reach Monique at monique.zatcoff@asu.edu

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