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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Editorial: New revenue must be found

    As President Robert Shelton peruses the stack of white paper proposals sitting on his desk this week, one goal should be foremost in his mind: financial independence for the university.

    After all, what else connects the ongoing redevelopment project with the decision to freeze all UA hiring until further notice? While Shelton has made redevelopment a very public concern, he let the second bombshell drop late last Friday afternoon, like a physician trying to distract a nervous patient from an impending vaccination.

    The administration has been notably tight-lipped about the decision, though it wasn’t totally unexpected – there’s been a freeze on all “”noncritical”” hires since February, and the Arizona job market as a whole has been tightening all year. The hiring freeze won’t affect positions funded by grants or other non-state revenue, which amounts to about 50 percent of open positions at the UA, according to the Tucson Citizen.

    What redevelopment and the hiring freeze have in common is their impetus. Both were certainly motivated by financial worries, and in particular the slowly constricting revenue stream dribbling out of the Arizona state legislature.

    While the UA’s total funding has doubled in the last decade, the proportion of that state funding has stayed approximately the same. For the 2008 fiscal year, according to the UA Factbook, state funds provided $617,140,900 -ÿjust under a third of the total budget.

    It’s clear, however, that this situation may not last. The state government is increasingly ill-equipped to invest the kind of money that Arizona’s universities need. The state legislature cut $50 million from university funding in January, and with the state facing a major deficit, we’re likely to see more cuts to higher education.

    Therefore, the UA’s top fiscal priority should be to free itself, as much as possible, from its reliance on state funding.

    In Shelton’s first State of the University address in November, he vowed to work to keep valuable faculty from leaving the UA for other institutions and “”tens of millions of dollars in research grants and dozens of jobs that those grants supported.”” And retaining the “”best faculty in the world at the best prices,”” of course, was one of the goals of redevelopment as stated in his original memo.

    Shelton had the right idea: The UA’s research programs are its most valuable source of non-state revenue. Although a tuition raise is on the horizon -ÿthe Board of Regents set the highest possible hike at $726 last month -ÿit won’t make up the difference if state funding drastically decreases next year.

    The UA’s reputation as a great research facility is well-earned. What remains to be seen is whether the research programs can carry the university through one of the roughest financial patches our state has seen in decades.

    Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Andi Berlin, Justyn Dillingham, Lauren LePage, Lance Madden and Nick Seibel.

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