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Arizona, a growing state with only three state universities, relies heavily on its network of community colleges in the various counties. Students there have an affordable way to get a good start on a bachelor’s degree, and the Legislature has considered allowing the colleges to offer four-year degrees. Many others receive specialized job training and certificates in various areas. A bill before the Legislature now would help more students at the community colleges through a $10 million scholarship fund, which would be an excellent use of tax dollars.

House Bill 2638 is designed to provide the “last dollar” needed by some students to receive post-secondary education. Also, Rep. Aaron Lieberman, D-Paradise Valley, said the bill would aid the community colleges, which have seen a combined enrollment loss of about 40,000 since the start of the pandemic.

In Pinal County, Central Arizona College long has had the Promise for the Future Scholarship, provided through donations to its foundation. Pinal students who pledge to stay in school and make good grades have looked forward to a waiver of tuition at CAC.

The new state scholarship fund, which is advancing through the Legislature, is for students who qualify for a federal Pell Grant, which is mainly those who have a family income below $20,000 at year. Lieberman says the fund would provide additional assistance for about 3,000 students a year to help train them for jobs in the state. And that is seen as a major need as well by Lieberman.

College tuition in general is much too expensive. And borrowing large sums of money usually is not a good way to deal with the problem. Yet community colleges in Arizona, including CAC, provide quite a bargain. HB 2638 would offer some help to students who really need it. Passage of the bill would be a wise investment.

— Donovan Kramer Jr.

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