Arizona’s public universities’ requests to the state Legislature are typically simple: Send more money. Last session, with the state awash in excess tax revenue, the universities got their wish. This session, lawmakers might return to their standard refrain: Not this year.
“Nobody’s really inviting us to increase our request,” said Anne Barton, Arizona Board of Regents spokeswoman.
Arizona was among the 48 states that lifted spending on higher education last year, according to figures from the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University.
“Last time, we had a billion dollar surplus,” said Rep. Jennifer Burns, R-Tucson, chairwoman of the state House of Representatives’ higher education committee. “This time, we’re talking a couple hundred million dollars probably.”
Arizona State University received an additional $17 million to cover costs of expanding enrollment and another $11 million to spend as it wants.
This session, ASU is asking lawmakers for $45 million in new spending for numerous programs, said lobbyist Steven Miller. Included is $15 million on measures to reduce the number of freshmen who fail or drop out.
The university system — including the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University — got $20 million for building maintenance last year. This year, ASU alone is asking for $30 million for building maintenance.
Whether the universities succeed at the Capitol depends on tax revenue, Burns said.
Burns also plans to push for a new agency that would oversee Arizona’s 10 community college districts.