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ABOR tables decision of AIMS Scholarship continuance

The Arizona Board of Regents’ Academic Affairs Committee met Thursday to discuss the future of the High Honors Tuition Scholarship, also known as the AIMS scholarship.

Potential changes to the program, which awards high school students who excel on Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards exam with full-ride scholarships, have been discussed in recent weeks as the state Legislature continues to cut education funds.

“There’s some real […] difference of opinion as to the success of the AIMS, the cost of the AIMS and even some of the history of the AIMS standards,” said Dennis DeConcini, chairman of the academic affairs committee.

At the meeting, committee members heard from the provosts of ASU, NAU and UA, who made suggestions for alterations to the program should it continue in the future.

“The reason we’re even considering [altering the program] is because of the cost,” DeConcini said.

High school students are allowed to take the AIMS exam three times — during their sophomore, junior and senior years. They can receive the scholarship on any of the three attempts.

“It’s full tuition for anyone who passes the test, and they’re allowed to take it three times,” DeConcini said.

DeConcini said that when the program started, tuition was less than $3,000. Now, a full year at ASU costs about $8,000.

Supporters of the program attended the meeting and pushed for its continuance, including members of the Arizona Students’ Association.

“The AIMS scholarship is really, really important to students, and it impacts affordability and accessibility for a lot of students in Arizona,” said ASA Board Chair Elma Delic.

Delic said the committee intended to make some progress on the issue at the meeting. However, the motion was tabled due to lack of support for any of the universities’ proposals.

“We really want ABOR to create a task force to get a bunch of key stakeholders involved in the process … to further explore the impact of AIMS,” Delic said, “and how we can make sure that all the money … stays in financial aid.”

Student Regent Jennifer Ginther said she understood the financial burden of the universities as well as the concerns of students, but that she needs more information before she can make a decision.

“I think moving forward, we [need to] continue to work with the universities and the students and try to strike a balance,” Ginther said. “I really want to see some more of the data.”

Though many changes are likely to come to the program, including the award amount being reduced and even restructuring the test altogether, students who have taken the test don’t have to worry.

DeConcini said he is working on a proposal now that will grandfather the students in who have already taken the AIMS exam, so their scholarships will not be affected.

DeConcini added that he would like to keep the scholarship as is, but due to a decrease in state funding the Board of Regents has to react.

“If the state Legislature will fund the full equivalent of … four-years full tuition waiver, then I’m all for it, and I think everybody is,” said DeConcini. “The reason we’re even addressing this is because last year the Legislature cut the universities’ budgets by over $2 million.”

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