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ABOR discusses UA budget, students and faculty protest

UA+President+Robert+Robbins+thanks+Interim+CFO+John+Arnold+during+an+Arizona+Board+of+Regents+meeting+on+April+18.+Arnold+presented+a+budget+update.
Noor Haghighi
UA President Robert Robbins thanks Interim CFO John Arnold during an Arizona Board of Regents meeting on April 18. Arnold presented a budget update.

University of Arizona leadership disclosed progress in addressing the institution’s financial challenges during an Arizona Board of Regents meeting on April 18. John Arnold, interim Chief Financial Officer and senior vice president for Business Affairs, presented the university’s preliminary budget for fiscal year 2025 during this session.

Before meeting with ABOR, President Dr. Robert C. Robbins sent an email to the campus community on the morning of April 18. 

“I am pleased to announce the University is projecting that the FY 2025 budget deficit will be reduced from $162 million down to $52 million,” Robbins said in the email.

The focus on solving the FY 2025 budget deficit is a direct result of the university’s mishandling of funds that became apparent in November of last year.

The ABOR meeting was met with protests and resentment from students, staff and faculty. Many have felt that there has been a lack of communication and transparency from higher administration.

 “All these successes are written in dollar amounts. We’ve gone from one large number to a smaller number. That’s how they calculate their victories — through numbers and dollars,” Rhys Williams, president of Arizona Divest and a member of United Campus Workers Arizona said during a campus protest on April 18

UCWAZ held this protest outside the UA Administration building an hour before the ABOR meeting to advocate for those impacted by the financial mismanagement and budget cuts at the UA. 

“It doesn’t mention the fact that our pharmacy is shut down completely. It doesn’t mention the fact that our university’s Climate Action Plan is indefinitely delayed without notice for the entire semester,” Williams said in response to Robbins’ email. 

Students, staff and faculty continued to show their dissatisfaction with the UA and ABOR during the allotted time for public comments at the meeting, including Associated Students of the University of Arizona Student Body President Alyssa Sanchez. 

“President Robbins has met with me less than five times this entire school year, despite past presidents meeting with him monthly. This lack of consistent dialogue undermines the representation of students’ needs and concerns. In addition to this, the exclusion of ASUA and [Graduate and Professional Student Council] presidents from the search committee for the new university president is deeply troubling,” Sanchez said. 

Despite these grievances surrounding budget cuts and transparency issues, Arnold said the university maintains a solid set of goals moving forward.

“Our goals around student retention, graduation rates, enrollment, student achievement and post-university success — we are not backing off on any of those goals,” Arnold said. 

Arnold and Robbins have met with department heads of colleges and division leaders to seek potential budget proposals with reductions of 5%, 10% and 15% with hopes that this could avoid budget cuts that would affect the entire university. 

In the last few months, UA Chief Budget Officer Garth Perry, Provost Ronald Marx, Robbins and Arnold have been convening to launch and implement a financial aid redesign, the majority of which will be implemented in fall 2025. 

This redesign includes decreasing high-end merit aid, conducting third party reviews on athletics programs and the University of Arizona Global Campus, working with the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee and establishing the University Advisory Committee, coupled with the centralization and restructuring of several departments. 

However, Arnold said that the school won’t only be relying on budget cuts to make up for the financial deficit. According to Arnold, “base revenue assumptions,” like an increase in tuition rates, growth in enrollment of graduate students, investment earnings  and “new revenue opportunities” like UAGC, program expansions and auxiliaries will also help. 

During the ABOR meeting, Arnold released the high-level university budget for FY 2025 and announced university leadership would publish an initial budget for individual colleges next week. According to Arnold, each administrative budget will most likely not be released until the end of May. 

According to Arnold, the Executive Office of the President and the Office of the Secretary faced the most significant budgetary adjustments, resulting in a loss of almost $5 million, a 28.2% decrease. 

According to Arnold’s presentation, administration and the Office of the Provost can be expected to lose $30.1 million in their FY 2025 budget, a 6.3% decrease. Colleges can expect to lose $26.1 million, a 3.6% decrease. However, the FY 2025 budget increases spending in facilities and utilities by $2.9 million, and safety and police by $1.3 million; a 2.5 % and 9.2 %  increase respectively. 

“We’ve taken a big bite out of the deficit. Really this is [2025]; when we set the budget for fiscal [year 2026], we will wipe out the rest of that 52 million dollars,” Arnold said.


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