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Friday March 30, 2001

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Financial aid bill shot down in committee

By Eric Swedlund

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Discussions to resume despite defeat

PHOENIX - A Senate panel yesterday voted down a bill that would increase the state's contribution to student financial aid, but the committee chairman said he would bring the bill back in a week.

House Bill 2581 would have doubled the state's contribution to the Financial Aid Trust Fund, but an amendment would have cut that amount by three-fourths.

The Arizona Financial Aid Trust Fund takes 1 percent of each student's tuition, and the state matches that. The bill would increase the state contribution to a 2-1 ratio, but the amendment cut the increase to a 1.25-1 ratio.

Earlier this month, the Senate passed its own version of the bill, SB 1384, with the amended 1.25-1 ratio.

Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, chairs the Senate Education Committee and said despite the 5-2 vote against the bill, he would hear it again next week after coordinating with the House of Representatives concerning the status of the Senate bill.

Paul Peterson, executive director of the Arizona Students Association, originally brought the measure to Bennett as a way to give low-income students more free state aid.

During the trust fund's 10 years, Peterson said more than 18,000 students have received $16.6 million in financial aid.

The number of students receiving aid has increased each year, and Peterson said close to 3,000 students will get the aid for Fall 2001. This year, the fund gives about $2 million in free aid to needy students.

University of Arizona lobbyist Charlene Ledet told the committee that the university supports the bill.

"This provided an increased, improved accessibility to the universities," Ledet said.

The bill has already passed the House of Representatives.