Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Lesson time: Arizona Constitution 101

You'd think that people elected to office and exercising authority under the Arizona Constitution would occasionally read the think.

But you'd think wrong.

From HTRNews -

A state House committee has approved a bill that will make thousands of Arizona university students dig a little deeper into their pockets to pay for school.

The legislation would require full-time students to pay at least $2,000 each year toward their tuition at a state university.

Students would not be able to use university-provided grants, scholarships or tuition benefits to pay the minimum share.

The bill in question is HB2675.  The bill passed the House Appropriations Committee by a 7 - 6 vote, with all the Democrats on the committee (Lela Alston, Chad Campbell, Matt Heinz, and Anna Tovar) and two Republicans (Steve Urie and Vic Williams) voting against it.

For those who weren't paying attention in their high school civics classes, from Article 11, Section 6 of the Arizona Constitution -

The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible.

" nearly free as possible."

Words to take to heart, but unfortunately, a supermajority of the legislature would rather take an oath to a corporate lobbyist like Grover Norquist to heart instead of the oath they took to the people of Arizona.


Phoenix Justice said...

I am still trying to wrap my head around why they feel this is necessary. Do they not want students who can't pony up the $2000 themselves? Is this their way of trying to destroy the public college/university system in Arizona? It just doesn't make sense as to why this is needed.

John said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Phoenix Justice said...


Actually, the case you cited only involves the cost of tuition, not whether or not the legislature can require that part of that tuition be paid out of pocket by the student (kind of a deductable).

It will be interesting to see how the Arizona Supreme Court would rule on this.

cpmaz said...

From Rep. Kavanagh, who emailed a request to me to replace his original comment due to a typo -

Unfortunately for you, the Arizona Supreme Court rejected the argument that tuition far higher than the $2,000 that my bill would require students to pay was unconstitutional in Kromko v. the Arizona Board of Regents.

They said in part, " We can conceive of no judicially discoverable and manageable standards — and the students have suggested none — by which we could decide such issues, either individually or in the aggregate. Even assuming, as the students contend, that Article XI, Section 6, requires that tuition be "reasonable" and not "excessive," there is no North Star to guide a court in making such a determination; at best, we would be substituting our subjective judgment of what is reasonable under all the circumstances for that of the Board and Legislature, the very branches of government to which our Constitution entrusts this decision. The issue of whether tuition is as nearly free as possible is thus a nonjusticiable political question."

Go to:,3&as_vis=1

John Kavanagh
Arizona House of Representatives
Chairman, Appropriations Committee
District 8
Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Rio Verde, and Tonto Verde
(602) 926-5170
Fax: (602) 417-3108
1700 West Washington Avenue, Suite H
Phoenix, Arizona 85007

Phoenix Justice said...

Senator Kavanagh,

The question still remains: What is the purpose of requiring a student to pay $2000 out of pocket in order to go to a public college/university in Arizona? Are you attempting to make it tougher for people to go to college in Arizona? Is this how you define "smaller government"?

John said...

Thanks for the promotion but it is Representative.

I am puzzled that my attempt to have students who have not earned scholarships owing to either academic or athletic accomplishment has met such resistance. I am only asking students who received unearned tuition subsidies to pay $2,000 per year towards their tuition – only about $20%. And to make it even less onerous, they can use any non-university administered aid to pay that last $2,000 other than Pell grants and the bill will exempt students who have to pay room and board due to their not living within commuting distance of a state university. That’s right. I still allow the universities to bestow about $7,000 in unearned subsidies on these students and many can make up the difference with other aid, work-study pay or loans.

I do not believe it fair that most of the people paying for these tuition subsidizes are taxpayers without four-year college degrees who will statistically earn half a million to one million dollars less in their lifetimes that the college educated students whose tuition they are subsidizing.

HB2675 is necessary because the universities are internally subsidizing the tuition of non-academic and non-athletic scholars to the degree that nearly half of in-state undergraduate students pay no tuition whatsoever and almost all of the rest pay discounted rates.

Paying tuition of $2,000 per year is not a great burden because students can still get that money by working, getting non-university aid or by taking out readily available student loans. If they exclusively used loans, the total amount would only be $8,000 for a four-year degree. Isn’t a university degree worth more than a Chevy Sonic?

Ending the full tuition write-off for non-academic and non-athletic scholars will also free up $18,000,000 that the universities can use to improve their academic activities. The state is not taking this money from the universities. The universities keep every dime of it.

Second, under the current heavily subsidized tuition system, it is cheaper for many students to attend a state university than their local community college. This unintended incentive lures many students needing more academic preparation away from their local community college to the universities. These students would be better served by attending a year or two at a local community college with smaller class sizes and a greater emphasis on instruction before going to a large impersonal university.

In fact, some blame the low graduation rates of our universities, which hover in the mid-60% range, on these less academically prepared students entering the universities, being overwhelmed and then failing out. The resultant lower university graduation rates then lower the national rankings of our universities and devalue the degrees of all their past, present and future graduates. In addition, the premature integration of less academically prepared students into the university system lowers the classroom experience for all attendees.

Finally, making non-academic and non-athletic scholars pay this nominal $2,000 tuition will give them a greater stake in their education. Often, people who get things for free do not take them as serious as they might have had they paid something for them.