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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    State probes project costs

    PHOENIX – State legislators grilled the UA and Arizona State University presidents Tuesday about whether the funds they ask to build the Phoenix biomedical campus are growing unreasonably high.

    In 2005, the Legislature allocated $7 million toward the construction of the campus and several lawmakers said they thought it was a one-time allocation to the school.

    This year, university leadership requested $25 million and total estimates for the project hover close to $600 million, which is expected to come from several sources, including federal, state and private funding, said UA President Robert Shelton.

    House speaker Rep. Jim Weiers, R- Phoenix, said even though he is a strong supporter of bioscience, there is a “”reluctance”” as to why the project has grown so fast.

    “”Help me understand the half a billion,”” Weiers asked Shelton. “”What we were told is not what has happened. Where is the end, where is the finalization and how much is it going to eventually cost?””

    Shelton said the $7 million was used to take first steps toward completion of the program, but added that he was not UA president when legislators first approved the project.

    ASU President Michael Crow argued that legislators had not been deceived, but that the project simply had expanded since it was initially planned.

    Twenty-four students will start school in Phoenix this fall, and Crow said that’s what was initially planned and the $7 million was sufficient to take that first step.

    “”It was always the case that the regents and the university leadership were asked if this is far enough, and the answer is no,”” he said.

    The goal now is to grow to more than 100 students per year, to construct more buildings, expand the faculty, develop a biomedical research branch and create a connection with local hospitals to train the students, Crow said.

    “”I can tell you how much it costs,”” he said. “”And the answer is a lot.””

    But he added that compared to other high-growth states such asVirginia, Florida or California, Arizona’s medical school is cheap and efficient in its partnership between the UA and ASU.

    “”At the end of the day, if we end up with two great public medical school campuses, one in Tucson and one in Phoenix, these are relatively modest investments when you think about what the power of the medical school can do,”” Crow said.

    Overall, the legislators applauded the efforts, but called for a detailed plan of how much money they can expect to spend on the campus over the next years.

    Other questions included whether there were enough residency spots for the students, details on the partnership with the Maricopa Integrated Health System and how it can be assured that the program will help alleviate a doctor shortage in the state.

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