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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Editorial: University cuts are irresponsible, unfair

Last year, while explaining the Daily Wildcat’s endorsement of Fred DuVal in the gubernatorial race, the editorial warned that “Doug Ducey’s solution to education … is to tighten colleges’ budgets.”

Well, that wasn’t a lie. One of his first ideas to tighten the budget was to do just that: cut college funding.

Still, we were hopeful that a new governor would bring new policies, not lead us further down a dangerous path of taking away needed funds for education.

Before Friday, Arizona already had the highest post-recession cuts to higher education in the country. Inflation-adjusted tuition has risen 80 percent, and per-pupil spending is down 48 percent. New Mexico’s public university tuition, by comparison, has only risen 25 percent since 2008.

And on Friday, Gov. Ducey released a budget proposal that would make those numbers even worse.

The governor’s budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes a 10 percent funding cut to state universities, $75 million total. $22 million of that will come out of the UA’s coffers.

Community colleges are hit even harder: Pima, Maricopa and Pinal county colleges will see their state funds cut in half.

Someone should tell Ducey that selfishness is not a governing principle and that public universities are infinitely more vital to the state budget than, say, prisons — which receive an increased slice of pie under Ducey’s plan.

In an attempt to cover a $533 million budget shortfall, Ducey tried everything — except, of course, raising taxes. The proposal slashes higher education, doubles the prices of vehicle licenses, reduces highway fund and cuts employee health care, but Ducey doesn’t ask citizens to pitch in even a dime. The best part is that the budget doesn’t even balance unless we reach a level of job growth and income increases that the state hasn’t seen since 2007.

University students are tired of bearing the brunt of bad economic policies that were enacted before we were old enough to vote. It’s time that this state began to value education, and good value comes at a cost. As ASU President Michael Crow said on Friday, “[This budget is] just out of alignment to me.”

Surely even Ducey can see the imbalance in a proposal that aims to improve the state economy by cutting the state’s primary sources of skilled labor. And surely the state legislature can see the unfairness in asking students alone to shoulder over $10,600 a year (the base tuition for UA main campus undergraduates this year) for an education that our entire state economy relies upon.

What’s interesting is that Ducey’s speech waxed poetic about how his plan “sets priorities, and it will also protect vital commitments like … classrooms.” Yet these priorities ignore half the problem. Ducey admirably wants to funnel more funding into K-12 classrooms, a goal for which we commend him. Primary education deserves to be well-funded in order to prepare future university students who will become part of an educated workforce; however, this should not come at the expense of another educational institution.

Ducey meant to draw attention with his statement to the budget’s $134 million increase in K-12 classroom funding. But Ducey’s budget also cuts $113 million from non-classroom school funding, $10 million from charter schools and $24 million from the bonus fund for successful schools, meaning that K-12 schools will see a net reduction in funding. Moreover, Ducey’s budget doesn’t implement the court-mandated $331 million increase in schools’ funding, a defiance that is sure to cost the state more in the long run.

In short, all schools suffer under the new budget proposal.

We’re tired of having this conversation every year as we watch more and more of the UA’s state funding erode away. This has to stop.

It’s time for our politicians to stop bandying phrases like “tough decisions” and “shared burdens” before turning around and picking on the easiest population to target in this state: the youth.

If we keep digging this hole, the sand is going to collapse in on us eventually.

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Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and are written by its members. They are Nicole Thill, Torsten Ward and Jacquelyn Oesterblad.

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