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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Schools considering privatization

Colleges and schools within the UA are considering privatization as an option to decrease reliance on state funding as the budget cuts continue.

“”Follow-up discussions regarding privatization are taking place within UA units, and there are no announcements imminent,”” said Assistant Budget Director Kathryn Whisman.

“”How lack of state funding due to budget cuts will impact schools and colleges within the UA, nothing will truly be known until the budget and tuition setting process is complete,”” Whisman said.

“”We certainly know there will be additional cuts throughout the UA, but where and how they are implemented still remains to be seen,”” she said.

Provost Meredith Hay said the word privatization suggests an approach to how the university is funded that is not quite right. She said when the word privatization is used, it does not mean UA, ASU or any other colleges and universities would move toward becoming a private university. The assets of public universities are still owned by the state.

How the university can continue to run with decreasing state appropriations is a question the UA is scrambling to answer.

“”The question is how do we prepare to have decreasing state funds and still run our programs, but have them funded through other revenues,”” Hay said.

The UA has requested over $636 million from the state for university funds in 2011, but the executive recommendation for funding was around $490 million in Gov. Jan Brewer’s most recent budget proposal.

“”The state money is getting to be a smaller and smaller piece, but it’s a really important piece,”” said Jeffrey Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering. “”It’s not an easy question.””

The College of Engineering runs on about $16.8 million in tuition and state funds, according to Goldberg. Depending on the level tuition is set at, there could be around an $8 million funding shortfall.

“”If we went private, we would have to pay those $8 million with other strategies,”” Goldberg said.

Some of the standard revenue strategies Goldberg is considering are funds from more donors, intellectual property and incorporating distance education into their program.

“”The question is, can we do all this to replace $8 million a year on continuous basis?”” he said.

The UA already has several colleges that are less dependent upon state appropriations than others, according to Hay. An example is the College of Optical Sciences.

“”They have less than 15 percent of their total budget coming from the state appropriations, and they use some of the revenue from granted contracts to help fund and run their college,”” Hay said.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has no intention of privatizing any of their academic units, according to Eugene G. Sander, vice provost and dean. The school may consider plans that would call for some service units, such as the Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, to use fees for service to pay their expenses.

Recently, one of the law schools in the state has chosen to privatize its program. Lawrence Ponoroff, dean of the James E. Rogers College of Law, will not take the same route as ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law. He said it was because he does not want to add more students to the classes offered in the UA’s College of Law.

“”Our real focus is on the individual nature of the student experience. We know that state funding is going to continue to decline, certainly for a while. And we know it will never return to the way it was. I have no intention of privatization,”” Ponoroff said. “”To some degree it is out of our control. I don’t know what will happen. But I do think we have to at least prepare for a world in five to 10 years where there is no more state support from the budget.””

Ponoroff did say he was “”grateful for every penny of state funding we have been given.””

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