After Voting For Tuition Hike, Arizona State Representative Tells Poor Students: ‘Welcome To Life’

Arizona State Rep. Michelle Ugenti (R)

Last week, an Arizona House Committee approved a bill requiring even the poorest students to pay a minimum of $2,000 per year to attend public university in the Grand Canyon State.

Arizona Republicans took up the measure, HB 2675, after hearing that nearly half of students at Arizona State University did not pay tuition in the 2009-10 school year, whether due to financial aid need or scholarships. In reality, “[t]he most current figure is closer to 25 percent, said Christine Thompson, the regents’ vice president of government relations.”

Though approximately 100 Arizona college students showed up at the committee hearing to voice their concern that HB 2675 would make it harder to graduate, Rep. Michelle Ugenti (R) had pointed words for them: “welcome to life.” The Arizona Republic has more:

About 100 students signed in to oppose the bill, and a handful spoke out against it. James Allen, UA student-body president, told legislators that by passing the bill, legislators would make it harder to achieve a higher-education degree.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti, R-Scottsdale, replied, “Welcome to life.”

A few minutes later, Rep. Matt Heinz, D-Tucson, admonished his colleagues for their comments.

“I feel these students are being greeted with open hostility,” said Heinz, who later voted against the bill.

Despite the students’ protest, the House Appropriations Committee narrowly passed the bill on Wednesday, 7-6. It did not earn a single Democratic vote.

Tuition at the three public universities in Arizona is already above the national average, thanks to recent “sharp tuition increases.” Nevertheless, the University of Arizona voted last April to raise tuition rates again, this time requiring students to pay an additional $1,800 during the 2011-12 school year.