Arizona universities, colleges grapple with governor's proposed cuts - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Education News

Arizona universities, colleges grapple with governor's proposed cuts

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Posted: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 3:25 pm | Updated: 3:20 pm, Sun Jun 15, 2014.

It will take a few months before Arizona’s university and community college leaders have a full picture of how the governor’s proposed budget cuts will impact their institutions.

Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget proposal for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, includes $170 million in cuts to the state’s university system and $72.9 million in cuts to the community college system, according to the online executive budget summaries.

“We’ve been saying for two years that we need to look at higher education and how we do it and look for reforms like lower-cost models,” the governor’s budget director, John Arnold, told the Tribune.

Presidents at ASU, UA and NAU announced late last year they would begin just that, a multiyear plan to streamline operations, though no dollar amounts have been attached to possible cost-saving actions.

The Arizona Board of Regents, which sets tuition and approves budgets for the state university system, will meet again in February. The board may hear updates to the operations proposals, said its spokeswoman, Katie Paquet.

Tuition hearings begin in late March, with final decisions in April.

“We clearly understand the harsh realities of the state’s fiscal situation and appreciate that none of the choices are easy ones for the governor or our Legislature,” Arizona Board of Regents chairwoman Anne Mariucci said in a press release. “We do hope that in the dialogue about the difficult budget choices, leaders and citizens will seriously examine the priority of a quality higher education system in our state and its role in economic recovery. In the meantime, the Regents and the university presidents will work closely together to determine how a cut of this magnitude can be best absorbed while preserving the quality for which our universities are known and respecting tuition affordability for students and their families.”

“But make no mistake about it, this latest cut will have a serious impact on University operations, facilities, staff and offerings,” she continued.

Budget cuts the past few years have resulted in a 25 percent drop in per-student funding from the state, according to the governor’s budget office. At the same time, enrollment has grown by 15 percent since 2008.

Across the universities, 2,100 positions have been cut — an 11 percent reduction in the workforce, according to ABOR.

The Maricopa County Community College District faces a 6 percent reduction in the district’s general fund budget with the governor’s proposal.

MCCCD's current operating budget is $655 million, of which $45.3 million comes from the state. Tuition and local taxes make up much of the rest of the budget.

With the governor’s proposal, the state's $45.3 million allotment would be slashed to $6.9 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

“We will work hard to make the governor and the Legislature aware that our colleges help the people of Maricopa County to be more productive and successful,” Chancellor Rufus Glasper said in a statement. “We will also demonstrate the serious effect these cuts would have on our students, faculty and staff and on our ability to help students complete their degrees and get jobs at a time when the state expects us to educate more students than ever.”

The community colleges’ governing board has frozen tuition and the tax rate for the past two years, said spokesman Tom Gariepy.

The board will begin public hearings on the tax rate and tuition in February. The board has the ability to raise the local tax levy by 2 percent. For the fiscal year, that would equal $7.5 million, Gariepy said.

Each $1 that tuition goes up means $2.5 million for district, he said.

The leader of the Arizona Students Association, which represents students and student government groups at the three state schools, said her group will keyepan eye on what happens in the next few weeks.

“Our initial reaction and concern is how it’s going to impact students and their families. We’ve seen tuition increases of 63 percent in the last few years. We want to make sure higher education is affordable and accessible in Arizona,” said ASA chairwoman Elma Delic, a senior at the University of Arizona and graduate of Tempe’s Corona del Sol High School.

Tuition for new undergraduate in-state students at Arizona State University went up 19.8 percent from the 2009-10 school year to the 2010-11 school year. Continuing students, who enrolled in 2009, saw a 12.9 percent increase

Resident students new to Northern Arizona University this year are paying 14.3 percent more in tuition than their fellow students who first enrolled a year ago.

Resident students at the University of Arizona are paying 16.4 percent more in tuition than a year ago.

Each university sets their own tuition rates, and in some cases they differ by when a student enrolled or what campus they attend.

CONTACT WRITER: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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