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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    UA reps ‘satisfied’ with Leg.

    PHOENIX – Three months into this year’s session, university and student representatives say they are satisfied with the decisions state legislators have made so far and they are hopeful that budget negotiations will yield generous monetary support as well.

    The money will be used to fund the biomedical campus in Phoenix, to improve student retention and to increase financial aid, among other projects. The House and Senate are currently negotiating their budget proposal, which will be released later this session.

    “”So far it’s been a pretty successful session,”” said Serena Unrein, executive director of Arizona Students Association. “”No legislation that would be detrimental to Arizona’s university students has passed. We’re hoping that there’ll be some positive things including the budget for the public university students will pass.””

    Greg Fahey, the associate vice president for government relations at the UA, said there has been lots of support throughout the session from some legislators, including Rep. Jennifer Burns, R-Tucson, and Senate President Tim Bee, R-Tucson.

    “”How well we have done will be determined by the appropriations, which are still in the air,”” Fahey said. “”I’m optimistic though that with all the support that the universities will come out reasonably well.””

    Funding for the biomedical campus has dominated much of the higher education talks so far. Since 2005, university presidents have returned to the Capitol many times to lobby for more support – $25 million this session.

    Though some legislators were skeptical during a recent hearing on the issue, most understand the importance of the project and its economical implications for the state, said Sen. Tom O’Halleran, R-Sedona, who hopes the full amount will make it into the budget.

    “”It’s all a matter of priorities,”” he said. “”Most of the senators and representatives understand the important role that our university systems play and I think it’s important that we continue to foster a higher educational system in the state so we can compete in a global economy.””

    The $13.4 million requested by the Arizona Board of Regents for financial aid might be granted only in parts, O’Halleran said, but added the amount will likely be higher than in previous years. Another large sum likely will be given to the universities for student retention, he said.

    Gov. Janet Napolitano in a January proposal suggested giving $25 million for biomedical education and research at the three state universities, which includes funding for the UA College of Medicine in Phoenix and the College of Pharmacy.

    It also included $10 million to attract better faculty and graduate students and to improve retention; in addition to a 3.5 percent increase in employee pay.

    Napolitano also proposed an additional $6.3 million for the Arizona Financial Aid Trust fund, thus reaching the goal of providing more than two dollars for every dollar paid by students.

    Apart from appropriations bills it has been comparatively quiet for universities this session, Fahey said, and there were not many crucial measures to deal with.

    University and student representatives have been able so far to defeat one bill that would have prohibited professors and teachers from voicing their opinion in class. Both, Fahey and Unrein said they worked with the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, and other proponents of the bill to convince them that the measure would have been “”detrimental”” to higher education, Unrein said.

    The bill, Senate Bill 1542, passed the Senate Government Committee in February but has not been heard again.

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