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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    University stimulus money in danger

    As recently as last week, Arizona education seemed to be on its way to rising from the ashes of its budget woes. New developments, though, could spell disaster in the form of an $832 million loss in federal stimulus dollars.

    When Gov. Jan Brewer presented her proposed budget on June 1, it was met with endorsements from the presidents of the state’s three public universities-Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the UA.

    Although Brewer had gained the approval of school officials, her Republican colleagues in the state legislature were not as easily convinced. While agreeing with Brewer on the proposed $40 million total to be cut from the university system, the legislature passed its own budget opening the state universities to possible fund sweeps.

    Such sweeps could disqualify the Arizona universities from federal stimulus money, “”a factor which the legislative leadership seems to be ignoring,”” President Robert Shelton told the Daily Wildcat.

    In order for states to receive federal stimulus money, they must show a “”maintenance of effort”” in financial support for state higher education. The sweeps would potentially take money from non-state-supported funding sources within the university system, thus showing a possible failure of the “”maintenance of effort,”” according to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was signed by President Barack Obama in February.

    Brewer formally applied for the federal stimulus money specifically for education on June 5, $146 million of which is meant to go toward the universities.

    Shelton’s support of Brewer’s proposed budget was based off of its balance, he said.

    “”She applies budget cuts and utilizes the federal stimulus funds wisely,”” Shelton said. “”But (Brewer) also recognizes that for the short-term, we need enhanced revenues.””

    That short-term window could turn into a long-term hole. With the federal stimulus money currently in question, UA student leaders are hoping the proposed $40 million cut to the university system in both Brewer’s and the legislature’s budgets are not just the tip of the iceberg, said Chris Nagata, former board member for the Arizona Students Association, the UA student government’s chief lobbying organization at the State Capitol.

    “”It could be a lot worse,”” Nagata said. “”In the ideal situation, we wouldn’t have to face cuts, but this is reality.””

    Despite its current position in limbo, much of the stimulus money has already been spent to help offset the state’s current $3.3 billion deficit, including $433 million to balance the budget, according to the Governor’s Office.

    Arizona’s three universities have released official statements on the possibility of the rejection of stimulus funds.

    ASU’s statement claims the legislature’s current budgetary efforts are illegal in their “”sleight-of-hand efforts to seize one source of university funding to subsidize the level of ‘state support,’ which the state has represented as having been made in higher education in Arizona.””

    The UA also refutes the legality of the legislature’s decision, due to the sweep funds originating from textbooks and campus housing.

    Having already made $77 million in cuts during the current fiscal year, UA officials are bracing for a future that “”would be catastrophic for the citizens of Arizona,”” the UA statement said.

    The ASU statement goes on to say, “”These sweeps…will result in the loss of nearly $1 billion in federal education stimulus money to the detriment of the state budget, the state universities and the citizens of Arizona.””

    For information on legal action that may be taken, see the Daily Wildcat story “”Regents may sue legislature””

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