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Bill to give in-state law students tution waiver dies in Senate

By Brett Erickson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
March 3, 1999
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PHOENIX - A state senator yesterday confirmed the death of a bill to make UA law school tuition affordable for more students, citing a lackluster reception by state law college administrators.

"I thought it was a pretty decent bill that would have given students the opportunity to higher education . . .," said Sen. Randall Gnant, R-Scottsdale.

Gnant, sponsor of the Senate bill 1154, said he stopped pushing the proposed legislation after receiving little support from officials at the University of Arizona and Arizona State University law colleges.

"If there's no support for it, then I'm not going to push it," he said.

Gnant's bill would have given the UA Law College the option of waiving tuition fees for incoming students with Arizona residency. Current tuition rates for the law school are roughly $4,500 for Arizona residents and $11,500 for non-residents.

Students would repay the loan to the state by practicing law in a rural area deemed to be "under-served," or serving as a public prosecutor or defender in any Arizona city. The time served would have had to equal the number of years a law school graduate received a tuition waiver.

Gnant, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also spearheaded a proposal to eliminate all state funding for the law school.

Although the budget-cutting proposal is still officially on the table, state lawmakers and UA officials alike are confident that the school will avoid the multimillion dollar budget cut.

UA Law School Dean Joel Seligman, who had opposed SB-1154 since its introduction in January, said Gnant's decision to scrap his plan was "wise."

Seligman said the bill, coupled with the proposed budget cuts, would have deterred students from attending the school.

The UA law school accepts 150 students each fall - 75 percent of which must be Arizona residents. Seligman said the bill would have had little success because about 75 percent of all resident graduates already stay in Arizona to practice law.

Seligman also said he was upset that Gnant did not discuss his legislation with law school officials before introducing it at the capitol.

"He makes these proposals and he never talks to us first," Seligman said.

But not all UA officials were against the bill to give law graduates an incentive to stay in the state.

UA lobbyist Greg Fahey said some administrators supported the bill because it gave more students access to graduate level education.