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Wednesday, November 26, 2014 | Last updated: 11:27am

GPSC to host town hall, discuss higher education issues



The Graduate and Professional Student Council is holding a town hall meeting with state representatives on Tuesday to discuss issues that affect graduate students.

Dan Gibson, editor of the Tucson Weekly, will moderate the event. Guest speakers will include State Rep. Ethan Orr, vice-chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee; State Rep. Macario Saldate, member of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee; and State Rep. Victoria Steele, member of the Health Committee, Transportation Committee and Insurance and Retirement Committee.

“Both Orr and Saldate are a part of the higher education committee, so they are familiar with issues,” said GPSC President’s Chief of Staff Deyanira Nevarez Martinez. “Particularly, Steele was asked to attend because we thought it was important to bring in someone who is not necessarily on the education committee, but ultimately votes in these laws and has more of the general Legislature’s point of view.”

GPSC President Zachary Brooks prepared a list of topics that may directly affect graduate students at the UA.

One of the issues being addressed is an Oregon pilot program that was introduced this year by the Oregon State Legislature.

The specific rules and regulations of this program have yet to be determined, but the framework of it is called “Pay it forward, pay it back” and is a program that will give students who are attending a community college or public university the opportunity to attend tuition-free. In return, graduating students will pay a small fixed percentage rate of their adjusted gross annual income back to the state.

“We want to know if they think this program is something that would work and should be implemented at the UA,” Nevarez-Martinez said. “And if not, what innovative ideas do they have to help reduce the increasing tuition rates?”

Another issue being introduced will benefit students who were not born in Arizona but have resided here for most of their lives.

“There are a lot of dreamers that were born in Mexico or Colombia … and then came here to grow up in Arizona, for example. But for legal purposes, they aren’t classified as an in-state student,” Brooks said. “One of the issues we want to talk about is that if we can’t give those people in-state tuition, maybe we can [charge] them in-state tuition plus a little more to make it better for them and their families, so they don’t have to pay so much money out of pocket.”

Orr said he believes the event will be a good opportunity for a “thoughtful discussion of how state legislatures can support students.”

Steele said she is eager to attend the meeting to find out what issues GPSC is concerned about.
“This meeting will allow me to understand the issues at hand and figure out where we go from there,” Steele said. “The main purpose is so that we can exchange information and for them to know that they have my ear.”

Brooks said the event’s purpose is to inform students about what’s happening with the state Legislature.

“This event is really important for all students to be informed about what’s going on, no matter what you are studying,” Brooks said. “Everyone should understand what is happening at the state level and be informed.”

If you go:

GPSC Town Hall
Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m.
Santa Rita Room, SUMC

- Follow Adriana Espinosa @adri_eee


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