New poll initiative aims to make college more affordable for students

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Rocio Hernandez / KJZZ

Shayna Stevens of the Arizona Student Association announces the launch of the statewide “As Nearly Free As Possible” voting initiative at a press conference at Arizona State University on October 5, 2021.

When Shayna Stevens was a student at Northern Arizona University. the cost of college weighed heavily on his mind. The NAU offers students a pledge program that locks in tuition fees for new students for four years after enrollment. But even with that guarantee, as a financially independent first-generation college student, Stevens said figuring out how to pay for her education was stressful, and she wondered if it was worth it.

“I already knew the answer and it remains the same today, of course the debt is worth it,” she said. “But is it necessary? No, especially not in a state that demands that our higher education system be as free as possible.

Stevens refers to Arizona Constitution which stipulates that education in state universities and all other public educational institutions “should be as free as possible”.

But over the past 11 years, the cost of attending Arizona public universities has increased, according to figures from the Arizona Board of Regents. In the 2010-11 school year, the base tuition and compulsory fees for undergraduate students at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona were between $ 7,600 and $ 8,000. In the 2020-21 school year, basic tuition and compulsory fees at ASU, NAU, and AU ranged from approximately $ 11,000 to $ 12,700.

These increases, coupled with cuts in public funding for higher education, have left some students priced out, said state senator Martín Quezada.

“The disconnected politicians who are on state capitol, they see the Constitution as advice rather than something they are obligated to respect,” he said.

Stevens and his group, the Arizona Student Association, have launched a voting initiative that aims to make higher education in the state more accessible and affordable.

The legislation titled “As Nearly Free As Possible” would, if passed, require the Arizona legislature to pay at least 50% of tuition and undergraduate resident student fees. Or it would add a 2 percentage point surtax on Arizona corporate tax. It would also freeze tuition fees for new students four years after enrollment and limit tuition and fee increases from ABOR or universities; requiring that any increase be limited to the increase in the cost of living of the previous year.

Daanish Daudi, a sophomore at Arizona State University, is urging Arizona residents to support the proposal.

“We have so many children who have unfortunately been left behind during the pandemic,” he said. “We don’t want to see any child come out of the system and lose an opportunity to have an education.”

The association aims to collect around 287,000 signatures by July 2022.

State Senator Martín Quezada speaking at a press conference at ASU

Rocio Hernandez / KJZZ

State Senator Martín Quezada speaks in favor of the new statewide voting initiative “As almost free as it gets” at a press conference at the State University of the Arizona October 5, 2021.


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