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The Daily Wildcat

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New Gov. chops budget for higher education

New+Gov.+chops+budget+for+higher+education

Gov. Doug Ducey announced his 2016 fiscal year budget proposal on Friday at the State of the State address, in which he proposed a 10-percent cut in funding to higher education which could mean nearly a $22-million cut to the UA.

Ducey announced a budget plan that would cut funding to Arizona’s three state universities totaling about $75 million, leaving Arizona State University with a $40-million cut and Northern Arizona University with a $13-million cut.

The funding to state universities would be given based on student enrollment at each university, as outlined in Ducey’s Executive Budget Summary.

Shortly after Ducey announced the proposed budget on Friday, UA President Ann Weaver Hart and Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen I. Klein spoke out in separate statements regarding the projected $75-million cut. 

President Hart said that the university will take the following days to determine what the UA would need to do to meet Ducey’s budget and present its own recommendations.

Hart said that decisions made will focus on the advancement of the UA’s core mission while also maximizing the benefits of the state of Arizona.

“These tough decisions will not be easy, but it is not easy for anyone,” Hart said in an email statement sent to students and faculty. “We all understand and appreciate that these tough decisions cannot be without consequences. This will alter our course and reduce the field of liberty in which we make decisions about the future structure and operations of the University of Arizona.”

Issac Ortega, president of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, said that the decreasing state support for our universities is surprising in some ways but not in others. He said that he understands Arizona is in a tough position and is still recovering from the Great Recession.

“I’m disheartened to see that our state is really divesting in our universities,” Ortega said. “It’s tough to see because we are doing so many great things on all three campuses, particularly [the] UA, that we do nationwide for our state, city and all around.”

Ortega said that ASUA will work to stay in conversation with as many people as possible to figure out what needs to be done to maintain the quality of education at the UA.

In Klein’s statement, she said this is a turning point as far as higher education in Arizona goes, and while delivering a balanced budget comes with complex issues, defunding our universities is not a proper solution for the state’s economic struggles.

Klein said that only a quarter of Arizona’s three state universities’ funding comes from the state and that tuition funds the majority of operating budgets for each school, noting that the Arizona Board of Regents’ relationship with the state is “dramatically” and “rapidly” changing.

Throughout Arizona’s economic troubles during the Great Recession, higher education cuts took a huge toll on Arizona’s university system, in areas such as workforce reductions, furloughs, closed academic programs, schools and campus sites and more, Klein said.

“Tuition also increased because of the deep cuts,” Klein said. “Arizona leads the nation in funding cuts and tuition increases.”

Klein stressed the importance of the bachelor’s degree, stating that two-thirds of Arizona jobs will require a bachelor’s degree by 2018.

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Follow Adriana Espinosa on Twitter.

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