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The Daily Wildcat

 

“Shelton, ASUA talk budget”

Robert Alcaraz/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Robert Shelton, president of UofA, speaks to the ASUA board on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, about occurring issues. He spoke about budget concerns.
Robert Alcaraz
Robert Alcaraz/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Robert Shelton, president of UofA, speaks to the ASUA board on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, about occurring issues. He spoke about budget concerns.

University administration tackled rising tuition costs and decreasing financial aid with the ASUA Senate during its meeting on Wednesday.

UA President Robert Shelton, Vice President of Student Affairs Melissa Vito and Budget Director Jim Florian addressed ever-present budget concerns.

The focus of the meeting revolved around Associated Students of the University of Arizona Sen. Scott Rising’s question: “”What could be the implications if students are seeing reductions in financial aid and increases in tuition?””

“”We’ve got about an $87 million challenge to deal with,”” Shelton said. “”I’d like to tell you we know exactly what’s going to happen.””

Shelton said there is a concerted effort to raise more private funds and guide potential donors to raise the 30 endowed chairs to around 300, around as many as competitor schools in the region have.  

“”What we’ve emphasized (to donors) is people,”” Shelton said. “”It’s money that spends big.””

The UA’s endowment, which stands at around $500 to $600 million, is small for the size of the UA, Shelton said. Recruiting more money is crippled “”when we try to compete with a Texas school that has oil money going into their endowment, or older schools like Michigan or Virginia, and let’s not even talk about the private schools.””

Shelton also said that it’s misleading simply to say the UA’s per-student spending is higher than other Arizona schools. Funding 15 agricultural research sites around the state and funding expensive training for health professionals skews the real cost for the average student.

Vito said that from a student affairs perspective, student levels coming into the university peaked around 2008, with current enrollment numbers mirroring those from 2002 and 2003. The UA is not projected to reach peak levels again until 2020, according to Vito.

“”It’s a little bit more competitive market that we’re working in,”” Vito said. “”Our retention rates are not where I want them to be … and (my job entails) having students view themselves here and providing an extraordinary experience that you won’t get any place else.””

Vito addressed how the university is marketing itself to out-of-state students who are confronted with rising costs in the search for a school.

“”Students say the campus is friendly, it’s diverse, it’s easy to make friends, and it’s the kind of place that forms a sense of community and tradition,”” Vito said.

But with a $60 million cut from state appropriations, and a tuition increase of $1,500 per student, the UA would still have a $43.9 million budget shortfall, according to Florian’s proposal.

“”Financial aid is one of our large costs, and we will have to look at how we disburse financial aid and be smart about it,”” Florian said. “”We knew today, this time, was coming. We started increasing tuition gradually, we started saving money, we started implementing additional cuts two years ago.””

Cutting 600 staff positions through the campus reorganization process aided in these preemptive steps, according to Shelton. Vito addressed the effectiveness in leadership throughout these cost-cutting measures.

“”I love working with President Shelton and (am) really proud of the way he and Provost (Meredith) Hay handled the overall transformation,”” Vito said. “”Bringing four colleges together in a way and moving forward strongly is not easy.””

The university has secured around $20 to $30 million in bridge funding with measures such as these.

Other steps to curb student costs include fixed tuition to stabilize tuition levels, a measure that has been hard to implement at the UA, Florian said.

“”As state investment goes down, the student investment, as you’ve seen historically and in the future, will go up,”” Florian said.

 

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