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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA funding declines with House of Reps budget

The Arizona House of Representatives has proposed a budget with lower-than-expected funding for the UA for the fiscal year 2015.

If passed, the budget could result in program cuts and raised tuition in the future. The $537 million proposed funding for higher education makes up less than 6 percent of the $9.2 billion state budget, according to a press release from Arizona Students’ Association.

Though funding was increased from last year, the currently proposed amount would likely result in raised tuition for students in the long run, said Zachary Brooks, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Council.

Under the proposed budget, the UA will receive 37 percent of the funding it needs from the state. The rest of the funding comes from tuition. This is a significant contrast to 2008, when UA was receiving two-thirds of its funding from the state, Brooks said.

The increase in funding is not enough to curb the trend of increasing tuition costs, Brooks said, and added that the UA is still recovering from funding reductions that started in 2008.

“If your budget was cut for the last five years and suddenly you get a little bit more, it doesn’t feel like more, because you’re still catching up on your bills from the last five years,” Brooks said.

Additional state funding would not only lighten the burden on students, Brooks said, it often returns a profit: Each dollar spent on higher education by the state yields $6 in return. Students with less debt contribute to the economy, Brooks said, and are more likely to invest in real estate or seek graduate degrees, becoming more versatile and valuable workers.

The House budget was heard and reviewed by the Senate on Monday and will return to the House for further revisions later in the week. If passed by both the Senate and the House, the budget will then go to the governor’s desk, where Gov. Jan Brewer will have the power to pass or veto the budget.

Rep. Ethan Orr, R-District 9, said he fought hard to increase the funding allocated to UA in the budget. Orr said he increased the funding for the UA in the House budget by $2.5 million from the proposed Senate budget, and asked for significantly more than that.

“If you want to see tuition stay low, the best way you can do that is by funding your universities from the general fund,” Orr said. “That builds a quality education where you don’t have to put it on the backs of students.”

Orr said he will continue to work for an increase in funding until the bill is signed.

Anthony Hessel, ASA vice chair, said the current budget shows a failure by the state to prioritize higher education. Both the governor’s and the House’s budgets proposed allocating more than $900 million toward prisons, a proposal overturned by the Senate on Monday.

Hessel said UA sets its tuition before the state sets its funding for the state universities, which means if UA receives less money than expected for fiscal year 2015, programs will likely be cut and tuition may be raised to avoid a deficit the following fiscal year.

With continued tuition increases, Hessel said, UA’s tuition is approaching similar prices to those of some private universities.

“So how does that make it a public education?” Hessel said. “In the Arizona constitution, it says that public education should be as free as possible. Only funding education 30-35 percent is not as free as possible.”

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