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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA could receive record aid boost

    Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, center, presents her state of the state address to the Legislature Monday in the state House of Representatives building in Phoenix. At left is Senate president Tim Bee and at right is Speaker of the House Jim Weiers.
    Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, center, presents her state of the state address to the Legislature Monday in the state House of Representatives building in Phoenix. At left is Senate president Tim Bee and at right is Speaker of the House Jim Weiers.

    PHOENIX – Student and state university representatives say they are pleased that funding for higher education will be a main concern on the agen da in Phoenix this year.

    A boost in funding for financial aid and more qualified faculty will be a top priority, Gov. Janet Napolitano said Monday in her state of the state address.

    The goals are part of a new statewide education plan – one of three key issues the governor proposed to members of Congress as she kicked off the 48th State Legislature.

    “”Our schools must be exciting and driven by a new ethic of discovery and curiosity,”” Napolitano said in her speech. “”They will be led by teachers who are highly regarded and well-compensated, and they will produce graduates that will thrive in an economy where creativity, ingenuity and adaptation are the rules of the game.””

    To realize those goals, Napolitano proposed the highest-ever state contribution to financial aid.

    She also wants to provide universities with more money to hire qualified faculty, and she said it is important that more students graduate in less time.

    The governor proposed increased funding to the UA College of Medicine campus in Phoenix and wants to devote $44 million to graduate medical education to draw more doctors to the state.

    “”Everyone at ASA is excited that the governor is committed to increasing financial aid for Arizona’s students,”” said Serena Unrein, executive director at the Arizona Students’ Association, which represents students’ interests at the state government. “”We certainly hope that the ideas in her address will be able to be fulfilled.””

    Last year Napolitano increased state funds to the Arizona Financial Aid Trust Fund by $5 million, raising the total state-allocated amount to almost $7.2 million in fiscal year 2007, said Anne Barton, an Arizona Board of Regents spokeswoman.

    The board is the governing body of the state’s public universities: the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University.

    The trust fund was established to provide students with financial aid and includes state funds, money from students’ tuition and the interest that is earned on the total amount.

    If Napolitano keeps her word, appropriations to the fund would increase again this session. Details on her budget plans are expected to be released later this week.

    Regents asked the state for an additional $2.9 million to reach a $10 million goal in fiscal year 2008, Barton said.

    This would increase state funds to twice the amount that is taken from students’ tuition.

    After years of budget cuts for public universities, the Arizona government last year appropriated more funds to the schools, which were able to spend some of it according to their immediate needs, said Charlene Ledet, special assistant in the UA Office of State Relations.

    UA representatives hope these dollars will continue to flow. Apart from continued funding for the College of Medicine campus in Phoenix, they hope lawmakers will establish permanent funding for the UA South campus, Ledet said.

    They would like to see funding to enhance undergraduate programs, boost salaries for faculty and improve student retention, added Greg Fahey, associate vice president for government relations at the UA.

    He said the governor’s budget recommendations later this week will contain more details on those issues.

    “”We’re waiting to see what happens on Friday, but I’m optimistic,”” Fahey said. “”We certainly hope the era of budget cuts is behind us.””

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