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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Last updated: 7:10pm

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Expanding requirements can save AIMS scholarship



With base undergraduate tuition at the UA increasing by nearly 90 percent between 2008 and 2011, the AIMS scholarship has played a pivotal role in helping Arizona high school students afford a university education since 2006. However, major reductions to the amount of money awarded by the scholarship have already begun to hurt students, and the Arizona Board of Regents should reverse course and increase the difficulty of attaining the scholarship to meet budget constraints.

In its first year, 1,565 students received the AIMS scholarship, a number that had almost doubled by the 2009-2010 school year.

“Without the AIMS scholarship, I would not even be able to be here [at the UA],” said Shelby Pierce, an undeclared sophomore at the UA. “I am so grateful to have the extra help.”

Instead of making cuts to the amount awarded, the Arizona Board of Regents should expand the requirements students must meet to earn the scholarship.

Some steps have already been taken in that direction, but they have been taken in tandem with reductions to the amount awarded.

The number of credit hours a student must complete in one academic year to retain the scholarship has increased from 24 to 30, and students now must receive a mark of “exceeds expectations” on all AIMS tests in addition to earning at least a 28 on the ACT or a 1300 on the SAT to qualify for the scholarship.

However, students who meet these standards will now only receive an AIMS scholarship offer of 25 percent of their base tuition.

“Make no mistake: We cut 75 percent out of [the award], the incentive is gone,” said Arizona attorney general Tom Horne, the lone board member who voted against the changes in 2010.

The AIMS scholarship provided the three in-state universities with a way to keep Arizona’s hardest working students in-state.

Creating tougher criteria to earn the AIMS award would help to isolate those students and could prevent a brain drain from the state.

With tougher criteria, the regents could potentially restore the full tuition award because fewer students would meet the requirements. Students who receive the AIMS scholarship would have truly earned it and be rewarded for their intense effort.

“It is an incentive to keep my grades up,” Pierce said, “and I have more time to study since I don’t have to work as much to help pay for school.”

The AIMS scholarship has helped thousands of Arizona students earn a college degree since 2006, and it should continue to be used as an incentive for Arizona students to work hard and to stay in the state for college.

A university education is only becoming more expensive, and although other states are experimenting with ways to keep costs low, the trend of increasing tuition isn’t showing any signs of slowing or stopping. If opportunities like the AIMS scholarship are taken away, what options are we left with?

The Arizona state constitution mandates that public higher education be “as nearly free as possible,” a promise the state legislature and the board of regents seem to have forgotten. With the budget constraints, stricter requirements that will encourage students to work harder appear to be the best solution to make college affordable and to keep Arizona’s best and brightest in the state.

Kayley Koontz_Kayley Koontz is a sophomore studying journalism and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter.com/dailywildcat.


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