After a month of screaming, student voices were acknowledged Wednesday with the death of a controversial tuition bill.
The proposed legislation, House Bill 2675, would have required full-time students attending Arizona universities to pay $2,000 per year with no financial assistance from any entity affiliated with an in-state university, unless they had a full athletic or academic scholarship.
These entities included private or public funding such as grants, gifts, scholarships or tuition benefits, according to the legislation. John Kavanagh, a Republican who introduced the bill, decided to pull it before the House could vote on it. The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee on Feb. 22.
“Thrilled”, “proud” and “beyond excited” were just some of the words student leaders used when they learned the bill was pulled.
Arizona Students’ Association Chairman Dan Fitzgibbon said that the bill’s death was a “picture-perfect illustration” of the power students have in the political system. The association, a student lobbying group, organized and worked together to lobby state legislators against the bill through events like Lobby Day and Lobby Con, he said.
“To see that hard work pays off is just absolutely thrilling,” he said. “We (ASA) have enough experience under our belts to fight these issues strategically and, in the end, win.”
Associated Students of the University of Arizona President James Allen said that he and many others also made multiple trips to Phoenix during the last few weeks to lobby against the proposed legislation. By attending appropriations hearings about the bill, he said, students around the state were able to “articulate and emotionalize” their opposition.
“Moments like these make everything we do worth it,” he added.
Dani Dobrusin, an ASUA senator and a political science junior, said that the bill would have truly hurt students if passed. Many students came to her, she said, explaining that if the bill passed they would need to get another job or potentially drop out of school altogether.
Although the bill was pulled, worries that a similar bill could arise in the state Legislature again have not gone away.
“There is always this concern,” Fitzgibbon said. “I think we (students) realize that this stuff can come up any time, it’s a matter of being as vigilant as possible.”
Allen said he could be concerned about the introduction of a similar bill, however, through lobbying students were able to show the state that they already pay a lot to attend school.
“Students already pay things like rent, fees and books,” he said. “They (the Legislature) couldn’t get around that.”
Dobrusin said that, because the bill was pulled before it could even be voted on, it is unlikely that the Legislature will try and introduce a similar bill anytime soon.
“If they do, we’re ready to rally again,” she said.