Three proposed bills currently under discussion in the Arizona Legislature potentially impact the Gila Community College provisional district and its provider Eastern Arizona College.
House Bill 2372 would amend Arizona Revised Statute 15-1410 to require funds appropriated from the state general fund to be used only on courses that prepare students for a qualified community college certificate, degree program or university degree program, or for programs that are acceptable for transfer to a regionally accredited public or private college or university.
According to Bill Konopnicki, representative from District 5, the bill would eliminate vocational education, eliminate all
two-year nursing programs and adult education classes. He will not support the bill as it is written.
In Payson, that could mean a cut in tax-funded classes seniors take, like Microsoft Word, Wellness or art.
Martin Ganz, who used to create workforce credentials and certificates for Pima Community College, said that the bill sponsored by Laura Knaparek (District 17, Maricopa County) does not have any oversight built into it. For instance, students working out in the Wellness Center would be allowed to apply that course credit to the Associate of Applied Arts Degree.
WakeUpCall does not believe that people who are 55 and older and having their tuition paid by scholarships should be eligible for state reimbursement.
"For-credit courses that the state provides funding for need to be integrated with the universities for quality, accreditation and transferability," said Don Crowley of WakeUpCall. "In addition, the state should only pay for the same person to take the same course no more than twice, to avoid ‘friends of the college' taking the same courses multiple times and dropping out after the 45th day (the trigger date for funding) -- thus gaming the system to get more funding."
House Bill 2626
HB2626 was sponsored by Konopnicki and many other legislators, including District 5 Jack Brown. The bill requires the Arizona Department of Commerce to develop and be responsible for the Arizona Work Study Program, establishes the Arizona Work Study Fund and appropriates $5,000,000 to that fund.
"None of the money goes to an institution," Konopnicki said. "No college or university gets direct funding. All of the money would go to the students and to an employer ... Gila Community College District would not participate, but students who attended college (there) or were employed and their employer chose to participate, those students could participate."
House Bill 2624
House Bill 2624 was sponsored by Konopnicki, Brown and Senator Jake Flake of District 5. With some qualifications, it would allow Eastern Arizona College to offer four-year bachelor's degrees.
When asked why he believed EAC would make a good four-year university, Konopnicki said, "The original idea for this bill came from the Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA). It wouldn't be a university, it would be a teaching college. One of the things that is happening is that middle class students are getting squeezed out.
"Tuition has increased over 100 percent two years in a row, so now you have students who just don't have the money to (take classes). If you are bright or economically disadvantaged, you have an opportunity to go to school."
Crowley and Peter Kettner, past president of the GCC board, expressed their concern in a letter to the Arizona Republic on Feb. 1. They said that they were against EAC offering four-year degrees, stating that EAC is "inefficient as a two-year college," and they are "remotely located."
"But we need an option," Konopnicki said. "Whether it is EAC or another four-year institution, we need to have an option open to students to be able to get high quality degrees at a reasonable price.
"The main advantage it would have for Gila County is that immediately (residents) would have access to the four-year degrees Eastern would provide."
Information on bills pending and members in the second session of the 47 legislature are available online at www.azleg. state.us/.