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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: April foolishness

    Discussing a proposed bill designed to limit credit card solicitation on campus earlier this year, state representative Ed Ableser said that, “”One of the nerve-racking things that most students deal with is this issue of debt, and they are not sure how to manage it, how to deal with it and how to maintain a strong financial backing.”” Replace “”students”” with “”universities,”” and you’ll have an apt description of the fiscal struggles of the UA. And just as college students have a propensity to spend money that they “”know”” they’ll pay off later, so does the university that decries reckless spending by its students.

    Arizona’s public universities have come together to propose $1.4 billion in construction spending on their campuses. With the housing market in a slump, this is the best time, they argue, for starting new construction, and the bills can be paid off by the state over 25 years, starting in 2010. The UA would receive $327 million of these dollars for the Tucson campus, along with $470 million for the medical school campus in Phoenix.

    The proposal comes as the state stares down a $1.2 billion deficit, and just after Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed a $600 million freeze in state spending. President Shelton has urged budget executives to “”be prudent, to limit budget expenditures and to develop plans, should moderate budget reductions become necessary.”” Apparently, the lobbying department didn’t get the memo. Already the university has millions of dollars in construction projects lined up, ranging from a new veterinary sciences building to a Starbucks in the UofA Bookstore, about 15 feet from the already existing Canyon Café. Yet this is apparently not enough for the insatiable appetites behind the construction boom. Furthermore, by not paying off the debt until 2035, it is likely that the accrued debt could hurt future funding should another “”unexpected shortfall”” come about before then.

    Yet what is truly disturbing about the university construction proposal is the justification for the plan: Rather than arguing for the necessity of strong education or for staying competitive with other universities, the lobbyist for the Arizona Board of Regents said that, “”The universities are working closely with the construction industry to help find a mechanism to get the economy out of the doldrums.”” In other words, the university is trying to engineer a bailout of the construction industry, a role that hardly seems appropriate for any government institution, let alone an academic one. It’s like a college student arguing that they are merely trying to help out the struggling liquor industry during the bear market (try that one this weekend).

    UA lobbyist Charlene Ledet further distances the proposal from the interests of the university by saying that 14,438 new jobs will be directly created by this proposal. Ignoring the fact that this comes at a taxpayer-funded cost of almost $100,000 per job, this rosy talk of “”new jobs”” comes at a time when the state has just passed a freeze on new hires. While the university was exempted from this freeze, few believe that university employment will receive the same sort of boom that Ledet proposes for an outside industry.

    During times of economic troubles, families and individuals learn how to cut back on unnecessary spending. The university would be wise to do the same.

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