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Central Arizona College has decided to use some of the federal pandemic funds it received to give free tuition to Pinal County residents for the coming school year. With enrollment lagging about 15% from the prepandemic time, which is typical nationally for community colleges, the decision is a good one and something that helps fulfill the college’s mission. And that is being focused on providing an affordable education close to home.

The college received $11.9 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act earlier this year, and the tuition waiver will come from that. The board had discussed the idea for a while and reached a conclusion called unprecedented. But then the pandemic that started in 2020 really is unprecedented as well.

Out-of-county students will get a three-credit tuition waiver in the fall. That is a nice gesture as well, but of course CAC’s main focus is on county residents.

There no doubt are multiple reasons for the decrease in enrollment. However, Americans stopped or reduced doing many things during the pandemic, and unfortunately education is one of them. Now it is time to get back to normal, and that includes getting an education.

The fall semester begins in a couple of weeks. There is no time like now to take advantage of the generous offer.

Federal money has been plentiful during the pandemic, and there may be more coming. In some cases, there has been too much, and that interfered with the market economy. But politicians love to spend money, and it did help to mute the effects of a massive shutdown.

Some jurisdictions and entities no doubt have misused federal funds. That is inevitable. Much of it is yet unspent. Meanwhile, CAC’s application of funds to pay tuition is an excellent choice. It will benefit the college, and it certainly will benefit the students, who will obtain training and education that will pay off during their lifetimes.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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