From its use last year of student fee money to campaign for Proposition 204, to its current cry for help as the state legislature prepares to rescind its power, the Arizona Students’ Association has claimed to be the defender of student rights statewide, acting on behalf of all, with the support of all.
The group’s mission is to be “the one unified voice to advocate” on behalf of 140,000 students across the state, Zachary Brooks, president of the UA’s Graduate and Professional Student Council and ASA member, recently told the Daily Wildcat.
According to Brooks, 73.3 percent of students statewide chose to support ASA in the 2008 elections, approving a referendum that raised the organization’s student fee from $1 per-semester to $2 per-semester.
A quick look at the facts, however, and it’s easy to see Brooks’ statement is an exaggeration.
The Arizona Students Association is a non-profit, student-run organization that lobbies for “affordable and accessible” higher education. It has come under fire in the past two years for using money collected from students to campaign for Prop 204, which would have raised $50 million for state universities. Prop 204 was defeated in the November 6, 2012 election.
A few months later, the Arizona Board of Regents, which governs Arizona’s three state universities, declared ASA’s use of student money inappropriate and changed how it collects funds. Now, students must explicitly indicate that they want to contribute money to the organization.
But ASA’s punishment didn’t end there. Rep. John Kavanagh (R-Fountain Hills) decided the Legislature needed to teach ASA a lesson, too.
Kavanagh, whose constituency is currently attempting to recall him, proposed House Bill 2169 in February to prevent the organization from using students’ money for political causes in the future.
The bill says no state university will transfer any portion of student fees to a student organization if those monies “will be used for the purpose of influencing the outcome of an election or to advocate support for or opposition to pending or proposed legislation.”
It obviously targets ASA and its support of Prop 204, which Kavanagh opposed.
The bill awaits a final Senate vote before it reaches Governor Jan Brewer’s desk. Members of ASA say they believe the bill will pass, and they are bemoaning the loss of students’ voice and political agency.
“I think by taking away that opportunity [to lobby], it hurts the capabilities of students across the state to speak out for themselves and actually have control about what happens to them,” Jordan King, ASA vice chairman of the board of directors and chairman of the internal affairs committee, told the Wildcat.
“It’s horrible for 140,000 students throughout the state that they won’t have one unified voice to advocate for them if this vote goes through,” Brooks added in another article.
While King, Brooks and their fellow ASA members may have all of Arizona’s students’ best interest at heart, the truth is ASA does not and never has represented the wishes of 140,000 students statewide.
In the 2008 elections, the same elections about which Brooks said 73.3 percent of students across the state endorsed ASA, a mere 9.7 percent of eligible UA voters came out to the polls. That’s 3,553 students, only 2.5 percent of the population Brooks says ASA represents.
Out of that 2.5 percent of UA voters, only 2,439 voted Yes for increasing the ASA student fee—68.6 percent.
Since 2008, voter turnout at the UA has continued to hover around 10 percent. Arizona State University typically sees the same percentage, meaning around only 6,000 Sun Devils vote for their ASA representatives each year.
Students may benefit from the work ASA does on their behalf, but the organization does not represent all or even the majority of them. This disconnection between ASA and the constituency it claims to fight for may be the reason why more students haven’t rallied around the non-profit during the past few months.
However, in the aftermath of ABOR’s decision and Kavanagh’s bill, ASA has gained an opportunity to bridge this gap and build a true relationship with students. The organization should seize this chance to prove its worth and potential by actively earning constituents’ support, becoming more transparent and strengthening its connection to the students it seeks to serve.
The Supreme Court will evaluate this week the constitutionality of an anti-immigrant measure put forth by Arizona that requires all voters to prove their citizenship in order to vote in national elections. But while the Justices, activists and reporters will focus on how the law affects immigrants, a different minority will probably go ignored: the transgender community.
I am republishing here an article that I wrote a little over a year ago for the Daily Wildcat. It discusses the potential impact of Arizona’s voter identification law on members of the transgender community and features the voices of University of Arizona students and professors. While the issue before the Supreme Court concerns proof of citizenship, not presentation of identification, the question of how the measure could impact members of the transgender community still stands, and is still at risk of being neglected.
Transgenders face difficulties with voter identification law
By Savannah Martin
Published April 27, 2012 by the Arizona Daily Wildcat
Creative writing sophomore Ben Griffith hopes to have a hassle-free voting experience this election season. But as a member of the transgender community, he could face a unique set of obstacles due to Arizona’s voter identification law.
“I keep waiting for folks to be like, ‘We need to double check and be sure that you’re legit,’” said Griffith, who is a female-to-male-identified member of the transgender community. “Of course people give me an odd look when they see my legal identification.”
Earlier this month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a provision of Arizona’s 2004 voter identification law that requires voters to present identification at the polls. Voters need one form of documentation that shows a name, address and photograph or two forms of identification that show a name and address.
The court declared the other half of the law, which requires proof of citizenship for voter registration, unconstitutional.
While many of its challengers say the law discriminates against Latinos and newly naturalized citizens, few have voiced concern for members of the transgender community, who may not have ID to match their gender.
Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, who defended the voter identification law in court, neglected to comment on the impact the provision could have on transgender citizens.
“A lot of times federal agencies and state agencies make rules to guard against certain things like immigration or terrorism, and then trans people end up being targeted as a side effect, basically,” said Stephan Przybylowicz, co-director of ASUA Pride Alliance and a graduate student studying information and library science. “They don’t think about how it affects the trans community. So it wasn’t necessarily their intent to disenfranchise trans people, but that’s the result.”
An estimated 124,000 transgender citizens who have completed their transitions have no identification documents that list their correct gender, according to a study released in April by the Williams Institute of the University of California – Los Angeles Law School. About 183,000 don’t have updated driver’s licenses, and 338,000 don’t have updated U.S. passports.
“A lot of us can’t just up and change,” Griffith said. “We have to go through a process.”
Transitioning from one gender to the other is a multi-step procedure that requires thousands of dollars in hormone treatments, medical procedures and therapy. Gender reassignment surgery can cost around $20,000.
On top of these costs, transgender men and women may choose to change their legal name and gender categorization. In Arizona, a legal name change costs around $200.
Voter ID laws like Arizona’s may not actually exempt transgender citizens from voting once they reach the polls, but having to show ID demonstrates a “symbolic threat of scrutiny,” said Frank Galarte, a professor of gender and women’s studies.
Some transgender voters fear they will be met with hostility, trans-phobia or confusion if their ID doesn’t match their outward appearance, Galarte said. This may dissuade them from voting all together.
“It shouldn’t be that transgender folks should be forced to correct their status and their identification to be able to vote,” he said. “The enforcement of this law is by virtue symbolically excluding or discouraging certain populations.”
Having proper identification affects transgender people in other areas of life as well, according to Galarte. They may have problems doing anything from obtaining jobs to going through airport security to qualifying for insurance.
“If we’re looking for ways to be able to change that then that’s implicated in a larger change in how we think about gender structurally and how it works in legal avenues,” Galarte said.
That “larger change,” according to Przybylowicz, is part of a societal shift in how we perceive gender and transgender people in our communities.
“Luckily, I think the trans community is starting to have a voice, so when stuff like this does happen we say, ‘Well, what about the effect on the trans community?’ and then we try to take measures to minimize that effect,” Przybylowicz added. “I think trans issues are kind of the next wave of stuff that’s happening. We’re still really into gay rights issues, but trans stuff is coming along right behind.”
As reported statewide, the Arizona Students’ Association filed a federal lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents lask week, accusing the Board of violating students’ First Amendment right to free speech.
You might be asking what ASA, ABOR, the First Amendment and your wallet have to do with each other. The answer is: It’s a long story. Here’s what you need to know to make sense of it all:
What is the Arizona Board of Regents?
ABOR is a group of 12 individuals, including two students, appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate to regulate Arizona’s three state universities. The Governor and the Superintendent of Public Instruction serve as ex-officio members, meaning their positions require them to be part of the Board. Save for the ex-offico members and the Student Regents, a regent’s term lasts eight years.
The Board adopts policies in areas ranging from student tuition to human resource programs, according to the Board’s website.
What is the Arizona Students’ Association?
ASA is a non-profit that was incorporated into Arizona state law in 1974 to advocate for “affordable and accessible” higher education in Arizona.
It is directed by 26 students from each of Arizona’s three state universities, including each school’s student body presidents. Two student regents from ABOR sit on the ASA board as ex-officio members. The organization also employs nine fulltime staff members.
Who funds ASA?
If you’re a student at one of Arizona’s state universities, you do. Up until this year, a $2 fee was collected from each student every semester. The fee was “opt-out,” meaning anyone who didn’t want to pay could get their money back using the refund form on the ASA website.
So few request refunds each year that only $50 is set aside to reimburse students in the non-profit’s 2013 budget. The $2 fee has brought in $2.6 million over the past five years, according to the Goldwater Institute, which investigated the ASA controversy in this article.
What does ASA do with that money?
ASA advocates for policies it believes will benefit students on a state and national level. For example, when Congress threatened to cut the federal Pell fund in 2011, ASA lobbied against the legislation, which was eventually defeated.
Last year, the organization advocated for the Quality Education and Jobs Act, or Proposition 204, which would have permanently raised the state sales tax one cent. The tax was expected to collect an additional $1 billion annually, $50 million of which would have gone to the “university scholarship, operations and infrastructure fund,” according to the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University.
Why is Prop 204 such a big deal?
Drama erupted within ASA over Prop 204 in September of 2011. Contrary to the rest of the organization, several students from Arizona State refused to support the proposition in fear of creating a permanent tax during a recession, according to the Goldwater Institute.
It took three attempts for the organization to gain enough votes to approve its support of Prop 204. The four ASU representatives who disagreed with the decision felt the third and final vote was passed illegitimately, as it was scheduled at a time when they could not be present.
The ASA board voted to support Prop 204 on April 20, 2012. In the coming months, ASA would pour $120,000 into the campaign.
At this point, the legitimacy of the organization’s choice to use money collected from students to advocate for Prop 204 came under fire by ASU students, regents and university officials.
Although Prop 204 was defeated in the November 6 election, controversy surrounding ASA’s involvement in promoting the initiative grew.
What does that have to do with the ASA fee?
Twenty days after the election, ABOR voted to suspend the $2 fee during the spring semester. The non-profit claims the Board did so to punish ASA for supporting Prop 204, which Governor Jan Brewer, an ex-officio member of the Board, opposed.
The final vote on whether to reinstate the fee or change it to an “opt-in” contribution would take place in February. In the meantime, students could continue to argue in favor of the fee and consider other means of funding.
Two months later ABOR approved permanently changing the ASA fee from “opt-out” to “opt-in.” The decision says that students’ billing statements must “clearly indicate that ASA is an independent entity” and that the fee “is not mandatory and is not a university fee.” Instructions on how to donate to ASA must be prominently displayed. This new policy will take affect starting in fall 2013.
That’s where the lawsuit comes in.
Financing political campaigns qualifies as free speech under the First Amendment. The Arizona Students’ Association claims its use of student money to back Prop 204 is protected under the constitution, and that by changing the nature of the student fee, ABOR is restricting ASA’s free speech in retaliation against its support of Prop 204.
Because the $2 fee is ASA’s only source of income, changing the fee to “opt-in” causes “a chilling effect,” according to the complaint.
ASA fears that if the fee is collected on a soley “opt-in” basis, its income will plummet and it will no longer have the funds to carry out its activities, which it says are for students’ benefit. The organization will either have to find other sources of income or prove to students it is worth $2 a semester.
Seeing as only one student (out of the approximately 130,000 ASA claims to represent) requested a refund last year, it is safe to say few students know about the fee, the private non-profit it finances or the organization’s political activity.
If ASA hopes to continue to collect more than $500,000 from students every year, that will have to change.
(Editor’s note: Though I just started cross-posting my writing elsewhere here, the following piece not only relies heavily on the research and ethos of this site, but also serves as a simple argument for why the discussions housed here are important. It’s directed at high school students, but if you care about being an aware member of any campus community, it’s relevant to you, too. A longer version was originally published by Prefessional U as part of their Student Journalism Program. — Anna)
Even if you’ve read twenty brochures and ten college guidebooks about a school you’re considering, it can be tough to determine what life at that university is really like. Until your futon is moved into your freshman dorm, how can you really know what the campus community values are? By researching who makes the decisions for the university and who’s paying attention to those decisions, you can get a sense of whether it’s a campus community that’s right for you. Below are three questions that offer a way to get a glimpse at aspects of a college that you probably wouldn’t consider asking before attending your first class. Instead of basing your college decisions on a favorable ratio of girls to date, a reputation for wild social lives, or a shiny new gym, consider the following factors:
1. Who runs the university? For most colleges in the United States, a state-appointed board of regents or chancellors makes decisions regarding how much tuition students will pay and how many students a university will seek to enroll. Appointed by the respective state legislature, the board of regents also makes the decisions regarding what programs within each university will be prioritized with funding and new facilities. The decisions and priorities of the state in which you’re enrolled will affect your every day life as a student. These boards approve not only who will be your basketball coach, but also how much tuition will increase each year.
Public universities and community colleges are directly directed and governed by their state board of regents. Private schools, especially those with religious affiliation, remain mostly autonomous from the state board, but are still supported by the state in the form of grants, tax breaks, and loan sponsorship. A potential student at any level of college will benefit from researching the funding and education priorities of the state in which he or she plans to enroll.
2. Who is paying attention at the college? You might pick up a copy of the student newspaper on your campus visit and think that’s the only news coverage around. You’ll almost always be wrong: In addition to traditional media outlets like news channels, radio stations, and print publications, campuses large and small have extensive networks of blogs, podcasts, and independent journals.
Flipping past the front page of a campus daily will give you an inimitable snapshot of campus life from the people who already inhabit it. Is there more space devoted to the latest scientific discoveries of faculty, or is the arts section more prominent? What is the tone and take of the day’s staff editorial? Are the student staffers more interested in tonight’s game, or a movement to bring vegan options to the dining halls?
In addition to traditional media, most campuses have at least a few blogs run by students, faculty, and alumni on everything from sports to the future of the college. Onward State at Penn State University and the Oregon Commentator at the University of Oregon are both independent publications that provide original reporting on campus events and concerns in up-to-the-minute blogs. The vibrant sports-blogging community at schools like The University of Michigan portrays how invested graduates remain and how excited they are about the legacy of their school.
3. How important is the voice of students? No matter where you enroll, student governments are your voice on things that matter. The issues considered by student senates include how much tuition you pay, what courses are available, and whether the school builds a new gym. The statement of the recognized student organization functions for leadership of the school and of the state as the official opinion of all the students, whether you’re engaged with the body or not.
There are many kinds of student governments: Some have ten members and meet weekly, some have hundreds of members and meet only a few times per semester. Researching what kind of structure is used at your dream school offers a glimpse of how representative the body is, and how likely it is that your opinion will be influential. For example, The University of Washington has about one student representative to every 570 students, while the University of California-Los Angeles only has one senator per every 2,600 undergraduates.
In addition to serving as the official statement to administrators and legislators on behalf of students, student governments also determine how much say you have in policy changes that affect you. Some colleges enact expensive new fees without letting students vote on the topic, while others put new policy to a direct referendum. Whether your voice is important to the leadership of a college could be a compelling indication of how much they care about the opinions of the students they enroll.
During his State of the Union Address, President Obama strongly urged every state not to allow students to drop out of high school before the age of 18. The president alleges that because Americans with higher levels of education have a lower unemployment rate, requiring students to stay in school will offer a cure to high levels of unemployment.
This is a neat thesis by the President’s administration, but the equation is not nearly so concise. Even if students are required by law to stay in school until they are 18, there is no guarantee that extra time spent in school will make them more prepared to get a job or attend college. For unmotivated students to be required by law to attend class not only robs them of their autonomy as citizens, but is also unfair to already-beleaguered teachers. If a student is in class because he is required by state law to be there, that doesn’t mean he is learning. He is probably far less motivated to participate in a class the state requires of him than he is in one he chooses to attend.
Though the government would like to think of its citizens as perpetual children incapable of choosing for themselves, a student who drops out of school is making a choice. The factors that influence that choice are a far more pressing concern than the age at which a student is allowed to leave school. The factors that lead to a student dropping out are of far more consequence than the age at which a student is allowed to leave school.
If a student is not being prepared by his school to attend college, requiring him to wait a few more birthdays to leave school will not change that. If a student knows at 16 that he won’t have the resources to finance higher education, or if his community does not value higher education, a high school diploma by default of his birthday is unlikely to convince him to work hard and go to college. This proposed policy is unfair to the limited resources of teachers and students who do care to learn and pursue higher studies. If a student does not believe in the value of a high school diploma, using the law to enforce it upon him is unlikely to convince him of the value of learning.
Dropping out of school is, of course, a personal choice. However, it’s a choice precipitated by many complicated factors that would be a much better point of attention for education reform than personal rights of high school students. If area schools, beginning with grade schools, are not preparing students to do well enough to get into college and qualify for scholarships, that’s not because of a lack of motivation from 16-year-olds. If a community does not believe college is possible for its children, that is a far better point of attention for state reform than passing a blanket law that not only doesn’t fix the problem, but reduces dramatically the rights of students and the value of their conscious attention.
Increasing the number of high school graduates by passing over broad state laws will not automatically turn around the economy. If schools continue to fail to educate students and be required pass them regardless of their performance until their 18th birthday, young Americans will continue to be disillusioned by a school system that sees them and their concerns as an equation in which administration and leadership does not factor. Instead of passing a law and absolving responsibility, education leaders should take a look at why students drop out at 16 and whether two more years of cursory attendance will really do anything to fix their problems.
As they have publicized nowhere, the ASUA Senate will vote today on a resolution condemning bills in the Arizona legislature that will disallow private citizens from exercising their right to carry concealed weapons on college campuses. This is a long and storied sage with ASUA — read this site’s reports on the matter from 2009, 2010, and 2011, just as a selection.
The resolution (here as a pdf with today’s meeting agenda) is hardly different than resolutions other ASUA Senates have passed on the matter, but this round of bullets against personal property rights is noteworthy for a few reasons. The first is that the UA entertains a new president this week, Dr. Ann Weaver Hart. Dr. Hart got her start at the University of Utah, which has a very different legacy of guns on campus than the UA. Namely, they allow students and faculty to exercise their basic rights on campus. Both Presidents Sander and Shelton were vocally against guns on campus, but perhaps Dr. Hart’s consideration will be different.
Another timely point of note for this resolution is that the Wildcat reported last week that a group of students are organizing a club to support concealed carry on campus. How does ASUA determine what students deserve to have their views reflected in this resolution, and those who don’t? Other than the catch-all of “talking to students,” does ASUA have any empirical evidence as to where student stand regarding guns on campus?
Once upon a time two years ago, there was such an uproar over a Senate resolution regarding concealed carry that the body held an open forum on the subject. It was one of the most vibrant ASUA events on record — but despite the feedback from students that format provided, there are no plans to repeat that exercise. The Senate will hear the resolution as both an informational and action item at tonight’s meeting. Interested parties can go speak at the call to the audience before the meeting, which is today at 5pm in the SUMC Ventana room.
The resolution itself includes the regular weak rationale for limiting rights, including that it compromises the ability of law enforcement to do its job. At the risk of repeating myself, this from a Senate write-up almost exactly one year ago:
The discussion, of which there was not much as this site would have liked, centered around the Senate’s assertion that nearly every student they talked to like, totally already agreed with the resolution. Despite Mr. Rosinski (and my colleague’s) deft evisceration of this assumption, the Senate universally acknowledged that it was safer for students to be told they cannot exercise their basic liberties on campus. The resolution includes a specific passage regarding law enforcement, stating “ allowing concealed carry at The University of Arizona will effectively disarm campus and public safety officers by removing their strategic advantage in hostile situations.” But as our esteemed forebloggers report, dah police are rarely a help in these types of situation. This from way back in aught-six:
News sources now confirm that a 18-year-old female UA student was shot early yesterday in a drive-by shooting. Some students on Facebook had already started a group entitled “Wildcats Against Violence,” but the group lists the time as the night of the day before.
Time errors notwithstanding, it’s definitely the same party as FIJI is the same fraternity as Phi Gamma Delta. The Facebook group reports that Theta Tau and Alpha Chi Omega are also within the vicinity.
Here’s what they didn’t tell you:
FIJI, 1801 E First St, is just across the street from UAPD, 1852 E. First St. This is further evidence that citizens cannot trust police as an alternative to the right to bear arms. This is the second frat shooting this year and the third gun-related incident on university-related property to my knowledge.
As was announced yesterday afternoon, the Arizona Board of Regents has presented what they’re calling a presidential “candidate” for the position vacated by Robert Shelton last July. In a very different process than how the past few presidents have been selected, the Board announced Ann Weaver Hart, current president of Temple University, as their first choice for UA President. According to the press release, “Hart will visit the UA campus on Feb. 13 to meet with students, faculty, staff, administrators and members of the public before the Board makes its final decision on the UA presidential candidacy.”
Who is Dr. Ann Weaver Hart? The Regents emphasized her accomplishments as president of University of New Hampshire and her latest position at Temple, from which she announced her departure in September. Their press release noted that Dr. Hart “increased undergraduate and graduate applications while raising the academic qualifications of incoming students” as well as “improved thefreshman retention rate and time to degree.” These are both timely concerns the Regents are well-founded in bringing to the UA.
As the Wildcat editorial board also noted, the process to select this president is curiously different from the last few within memory. Traditionally, several finalists in the presidential search were paraded about campus, impressions were made, and only after input from faculty and student organizations would a decision be made. Now, the Regents are effectively imposing a decision, and it’s unclear what would happen if Dr. Hart’s visit to the UA doesn’t go well. The assumed rationale behind this change is that any candidate worth having wouldn’t take well to being announced with several other names. However, the difference in this process — and its lack of both student and faculty representation, including no representatives from GPSC — will be interesting to remember as the result of the Hart selection becomes apparent.
Though her goals of higher admissions standards and higher graduation rates are admirable and timely, there are certainly aspect of Dr. Hart’s professional tenure that aren’t on the press release. Her administration had multiple encounters with the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, first at the University of New Hampshire for evicting a student from his dorm because of one of his posters. Dr. Hart also dealt with FIRE during her tenure at Temple for trying to implement an arbitrary “security fee” for certain events. Under Dr. Hart, Temple University lost a lawsuit when the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued a ruling declaring Temple University’s former sexual harassment policy to be unconstitutional.
This quote from Dr. Hart is especially interesting given that there were no representative of the Graduate and Professional Student Council on the committee that selected her:
Ann Weaver Hart, the president of Temple University, told Inside Higher Ed that boosting graduate education and research should be part of a larger strategy. “High-quality undergraduate education is crucial,” she said. “This is just part of that continuum.” She said that while foreign competitiveness is increasing, she also felt that a certain complacency in the U.S. was responsible for the “lost ground” referred to in the graduate council’s report and others.
She also implied that the student loan practices prominent in the headlines recently could affect graduate school, too. “If we’re skimming off profits, we’re not advancing the interests of graduate and undergraduate students,” she said.
Will faculty and students approve the Regents’ single presidential “candidate”? It seems unlikely that univalent presidential race will bear much meaningful input from anyone who wasn’t a part of the decision that’s already been made.
For the fourth time here in the Lamp‘s long memory, it’s ASUA Election season. The (controversial) Elections Commission sent out the names of the candidates[pdf] to the press last night. The candidates are:
Though this site no longer covers ASUA with the diligence the organization and its activities might deserve, more than a few of these characters have a lot of experience with ASUA and as such a history on this site. Leo Yamaguchi is a former ASUA Senator from the halycon 2009-2010 year, for whom we even have a 2009 Campus Policy Survey. It will be interesting to see how Mr. Yamaguchi’s platforms have changed since he claimed to support students’ right to vote on new policy. Chad Travis is a two-time and current Senator (and sometime Lamp commenter) who led initiatives to universalize class clickers, among other projects. Even Katy Murray is currently the ASUA Presidential Chief of Staff, so entire field has an ASUA pedigree. Given criticism that ASUA is an insular organization, the lack out even relative outsiders will be interesting to watch.
Given the low number of candidates, the Lamp‘s vintage criticism of the fact that ASUA holds a primary election to eliminate just one candidate is still keen. According to the Elections Code, “The commissioner is only required to hold a primary when there are more than 2 candidates for an executive position, or 20 candidates for the 10 senate seats.” There will be a primary election for both executive and senate positions on February 28th and 29th. How does this year’s Senate field compare to recent years?
Best wishes to all candidates — as always this site is open to and interested in discussion and platform information from candidates: desertlamp [at] gmail [dot] com.
For all the ado that’s been status-ed, tweeted, and publicly palavered over the proposed “Kavanaugh fee” in the last few days, an important detail is overlooked: HB 2675 does not once propose to increase tuition by one single penny, as even the Wildcat concedes in passing:
So what would actually happen? Ignore for now the “5-percenters” with full academic or athletic scholarships and the students who pay over $2,000 per year ($1,000/semester) anyways. Focus instead on students who, despite having their tuition covered by federal funding or other sources administered through the university, would be required by Kavanagh to pay from $1 to $2,000 beyond their tuition liability.
The school doesn’t keep the money, of course — that’s called theft. Instead, the money would be “paid” toward tuition in the usual manner, by depositing it in the bursar’s account. This money isn’t partitioned out — a total number of “encumbrances” (their terminology) are imposed for tuition, housing, mandatory fees, course fees, bookstore purchases, etc., toward which funds are deposited in the account for payment. These encumbrances may fall, depending on in-state classification, withdrawal from courses, and other factors that leave more money in the account than is owed to the university. At which point:
In other words — the money is ultimately be sent back to the student in the form of a check. The presence of additional money in the bursar’s account actually speaks directly to this line of criticism:
Since tuition levels are not affected, students will be required by HB 2675 to contribute a superfluous $1,000 per semester in their bursar’s account. Bursar’s funds can be used for paying for books, course fees, housing, and meal plans. If anything, this legislation is doubly redundant — students certainly pay this much for related expenses anyways. At the margins, it may even keep kids from blowing meal money in a welcome-back bender.
The bill reeks of an teenager’s attempt at a statute, filled with yawning loopholes and suspicously specific carve-outs. Though Kavanaugh’s concerns — the abuse of “merit” scholarships by state universities and, more broadly, the effects on education from lacking any ‘skin’ in the game — should not be dismissed out of hand, this hamfist of a bill creates more problems than it purports to solve. It impinges on freedom of contract, between both the university and its students and between students and private benefactors. It impinges on the ability of students to seek market alternatives for their outside costs. It creates silly circuitous effects that seem aimed at demonstration of a university-budget equivalent to Ricardian equivalence. Even if the bill were passed in its current form, its actual effect on students would be null. Read the rest of this entry »
Here are a couple breaking news items for your Monday: The state of Arizona is broke. College is expensive. If you keep making an investment that doesn’t yield a solid return on that investment, you should probably reconsider whether it’s a good investment.
Alarming everyone with a Facebook this weekend was an article from the East Valley Tribune bearing the headline, “HB 2675 may up college costs by $2K for many in Arizona.” House Bill 2675 [pdf] is a piece of legislation introduced by Representative Kavanagh of Fountain Hills that, among other changes, proposes that each in-state student contributes at least $2,000 of non-university money to his or her education per year.
Though this site has been critical of Kavanagh before and there are obviously some tensions in his proposal, the Tribune headline is wildly misleading. This bill would not dictate that tuition go up $2,000 per year (though it nearly has before, and few were so indignant). This bill, if passed without amendment, would dictate that at least $2,000 per year of each student’s full tuition came from a source other than the state of Arizona. This excepts cases of academic and athletic scholarship.
Those especially incensed by this legislation argue that it robs students who qualify for financial aid but not academic scholarships the ability to get a completely debt-free degree. However, prudent voters ought to take a look at the assumptions that precede this argument. The Tribune article lists that nearly 50% of ASU undergraduates do not pay a dime in tuition. Pair this figure with the fact that only 28% of ASU undergraduates earn a degree in four years. Less than three-quarters earn a degree in six years, the last interval for which the school reports graduation rates.
The $2,000 stipulated in Kavanagh’s proposal could be covered by any non-university funding, so federal funding would apply here. Anyone who didn’t qualify for university academic aid that had genuine financial need would certainly qualify for Pell grants, other federal aid programs, or private scholarships. Kavanagh’s argument that at least $2,000 should come from somewhere other than a flailing, failing state is far from radical — indeed, when so few student supported by state money fail to ever graduate, it might even be a conversation in the direction of better, more effective higher education.
Even if a student somehow could not cover the $2,000 Kavanagh stipulates here with federal and other non-university aid, $8,000 is an absurdly low cost of a college degree. Detractors of this bill say it’s heinous to burden students with $8,000 “when the alternative is coming out with zero debt.” But let one fact be very clear here: just because the state provides degrees at zero cost to students does not mean the degrees actually cost nothing. Far, far from it. This bill would only increase a theoretical student’s tuition by $2,000 per year if he 1) did not qualify for academic scholarship, 2) did not qualify for any federal or private aid, and 3) is currently attending school absolutely free of charge.
The state can’t afford to keep giving out free degrees, especially not to a student populace of which only a third graduate in four years. Rep Kavanagh isn’t just unpopular today for proposing students contribute in a meaningful financial way to their degrees. He’s also unpopular for reminding the bright-eyed idealists in higher education that there ain’t no such thing as free college.
The idea of graduating college with no student loans probably sounds great for students who sacrifice sleep, nutrition, and drinking beer better than Keystone to make loan payments each month for much of their young lives. These crushing loans seem especially unfair to students whose investment in college don’t yield as comfortable salary returns as they may have hoped.
Students at The University of California-Riverside think they have a new solution to the increasingly dramatic cost of higher education. Instead of paying for school while undergraduates, a student group is appealing to California regents to allow students to pay for their education by paying 5% of their yearly income for the 20 years following their graduation.
These students deserve praise for making their own plans to combat the dramatic problems of the UC system. It’s also compelling to see the California regents engaging with students on these issues, as usually only suit-clad businessmen with well-established careers are included in discussions of tuition-setting and system finances. Drafting earnest proposals for alternative action is a far more admirable call for change than performance art or sitting. But despite how hip and thick with zeitgeist this student proposal feels, it is not without problems.
Though most coverage of the proposal has claimed it’s a new movement, proposals for systems of this kind have been around for decades. There was even a report on the potential of a federal program for income-contingent student loans (ICL) by the Congressional Budget Office in 1994. Why didn’t the system gain traction over the current system of dispersing aid based (usually) on their parents’ income? While simple and seductive in theory, the ICL programs are not the economic fix-all they appear
While free college while one is earning a degree might seem great at first, if a school requires 5% of their income over 20 years, there is going to be a large range of what students actually end up paying:
Students who pay $2,500 a year – 5 percent of $50,000 – for 20 years, would end up paying $50,000 for their education, slightly more than the $48,768 they would pay over four years if UC tuition were frozen at its current level. On the other hand, students earning $100,000 would pay $5,000 a year, or $100,000 for their education over two decades.
As we see here, there is an adverse selection problem caused by ICR over time. Students generally interested in a career in business who know they will earn a healthy degree will find the school less appealing than before, while students interested in museum curator positions will be more intrigued in UC campuses that adopt the system. Even more broadly, students at the 75th percentile (more likely to earn more) will find the school less appealing, with the opposite result at the far end of the spectrum.
Starting a program like this on any significant scale is also a large-scale gamble that a system like UC in particular probably can’t afford. One of the most popular majors at UC-Riverside is psychology. Those who graduate with an undergraduate degree in psychology do not make anywhere near the $50,000 per year this proposal uses in calculations to prove its viability — probably closer to $25,000. Over 20 years at that rate, a graduate would pay only $25,000, a dramatic bargain, especially for a UC school. Even if psychology majors go to graduate school, it is many years before they earn an income vaguely comparable to an engineering or finance major.
As we see here, those who are likely to pursue low-income fields will be far more likely to enroll in an ICR-based school than a student who is confident their college investment will yield hearty rewards. There is also an interesting socio-economic dynamic that could be potentially persuasive here. High-achieving students who can get scholarships to pay for their undergraduate education while they complete their coursework are far less likely to attend a school that defers payments until after graduation, especially if they might end up paying more than the cost of tuition covered by their scholarships. This could lead to a university heavy with students who both have to take out loans to go to college and are more likely to pursue fields with lower salaries.
These students are right that higher education needs many, many changes, and UC regents are right to listen to innovative ideas, no matter their source. Perhaps most intriguing about this state-based ICL movement is the potential of this scheme to entirely supplant the federal student-loan regime. The student-loan regime’s powerful lobby has been the chief instrument in forcing federal policy. If UC is successful in implementing some version of ICL for its own system, it reaffirms state sovereignty of their own universities, and gets the federal government away from its intrusion into what would be better governed on a state-based level.
The unexpected derailing—if not total defeat—of the Senate’s horrendous anti-piracy bill and its counterpart in the House is a genuinely encouraging moment, made possible only by a tremendous public outcry against the bill of the sort we have not seen in years. Rarely is the citizenry so united on a single issue, and rarely is the gulf between the interests of the majority of citizens and the interests of the party oligarchs made so brilliantly clear.
That gulf was clearest in the appallingly empty attempts by Chris Dodd, a high-minded former Senator turned enthusiastic lobbyist for the motion-picture cartel, to justify the bills. Dodd complained that the many, many companies that boldly, unapologetically stood up against the legislation—which included Wikipedia and Google—were guilty of “an abuse of power” and of “[skewing] the facts to incite their users in order to further their corporate interests.”
Dodd, of course, knows that to an audience of liberals and left-wingers, there is no more dreadful accusation than charging someone with furthering their “corporate interests.” But what substance stands behind such an accusation? Can Wikipedia and Google really be charged with any personal “corporate interest” that is not vastly overwhelmed by their contributions to the public good? Did Wikipedia, in particular, stand to gain anything by blacking out its entire website for an entire day? Were the millions of ordinary Americans who opposed the bill mere dupes of these companies?
Suppose we regarded this accusation as an empty one. Why, then, was it made? The answer is not hard to find. As Glenn Greenwald noted, in 2007 Dodd posed as a high-minded man of principle who scorned the type of unprincipled, money-grubbing politician “who wants to be president of a trade association.” Today, Dodd is Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America, a trade association (i.e., cartel) that is lobbying for the effective censoring of the Internet in order to further its corporate interests.
But the outcry could not be ignored, and Harry Reid shut the bill down. Dodd’s pathetic and mewling response was to threaten that “the industry” (he means the motion-picture cartel, whose supposed “power” is entirely a favor granted by the party bosses) would not support President Obama in next year’s presidential election. Clearly a man who puts principle ahead of party, if resenting the freedom of the Internet can be counted as a “principle.”
Of course a man fronting for a group that exists in order to promote monopoly would find nothing offensive about a bill that seeks to crack down on the unfettered freedom of the Internet, the freest public space—and the most immune to monopoly—ever created. Of course such a man would regard “the freedoms these companies enjoy in the marketplace”—as Dodd put it—as a privilege, rather than a right. The only question is how such a man enjoyed wide popular support for so long.
Only in a completely corrupted Washington could a man like Dodd camouflage himself as a man who cared only about the Constitution. Only in a pathetically narrowed and compromised political world could such a man win automatic support from Democratic voters for the great moral triumph of being a Democrat. In such a world, campaigning as a “liberal” means nothing—less than nothing. A “liberal” politician put up for office and supported by the most corrupt political forces in this country is no more a “liberal” than the most shameless boodler from Tammany Hall. One of the Senate bill’s leading sponsors, after all, was Senator Patrick Leahy, a liberal Democrat from the liberal state of Vermont, and Senate Democrats are sticking fast to the bill in the teeth of intense opposition from their so-called “base.” Of the 19 Senators who have switched their positions and now oppose the SOPA bill, 17 are Republicans.
Imagine a country in which party leaders were genuinely cowed by such a public outburst whenever any matter of great consequence was placed before Congress. Imagine a country in which the citizens, under no external compulsion, freely assembled to express their opposition to any such attack on their liberty. We have just allowed a reckless, oligarchic Congress to pass one of the most dangerous bills in our history. Imagine a country in which we recognized that such deeds happen at our discretion, and that we can stop them. A far-fetched hope, even a slightly foolish one. But our leaders live in dread of it coming to pass. Of that there is no greater proof than the far-fetched and foolish words I have quoted above, that the free assembly of the citizens is an “abuse of power.”