University building funds critical for future - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

University building funds critical for future

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Posted: Sunday, November 16, 2008 5:57 pm | Updated: 12:09 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Debra White’s argument (“University construction bill a waste of taxpayers money,” Opinion 2, Wednesday) against HB2211, the Higher Education Budget Reconciliation Act, exemplifies the type of thinking that will impair the future of our children, state and nation. She says that the 66,000 students who attend Arizona State University — the vast majority of them residents of the state — don’t deserve to be educated in facilities that are in good repair and up to current safety code.

HB2211 would bring to ASU $170 million in capital financing to install sprinkler systems, renovate and repair classrooms, roofs, laboratories and electrical systems, among other things. The majority of funding comes from lottery sales, relieving taxpayers of the burden. White talks about “so many new buildings” yet these are existing facilities that are being renewed for current educational needs and the pressures of dramatically higher enrollment.

Arizona’s public university campuses are in a serious state of disrepair because critical maintenance needs have been deferred due to lack of state funding. ASU currently has a maintenance backlog in excess of $294 million, despite the fact that the state constitution mandates that state buildings be maintained in good condition. The remaining $20 million from HB2211 is allocated for construction for the Del E. Webb School of Construction — to be matched by $20 million from the construction industry — to meet the need for management talent that is crucial to the Arizona economy.

White seems to think that Arizona’s sons and daughters don’t deserve the best education because, as she states, “ASU … will never be on the same playing field with the Ivy League.” That is ludicrous thinking. ASU is a public university, inclusive not exclusive, and is recognized as one of the best public universities both nationally and internationally by many, including U.S. News & World Report and the Institute of Higher Education. ASU students are smart and innovative and, contrary to what White reports, graduate at a rate that is almost 24 percent higher than that of the average four-year public institution, according to an IPEDS Graduation Rate Survey of the 2001 entering class.

White even insinuates that Phoenix will never be the Silicon Valley nor will it be a “mecca to attract research jobs” so why do our kids even need to attend a university with adequate educational facilities. This fatalistic view is neither what our state needs nor what we want for our children.

In conclusion, White states, “We owe it to our youth to prepare them for the future.”

Agreed. Preparing them for the future means they deserve to be educated in spaces that facilitate their learning. There is no better place to invest our public dollars.

J. Doug Pruitt is chairman and CEO of Sundt Construction Inc.

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