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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Napolitano releases budget proposal, asks for more funds”

    Napolitano releases budget proposal, asks for more funds

    PHOENIX – Students around the state might profit from the highest-ever state contribution to financial aid if Gov. Janet Napolitano has her way.

    In her fiscal year 2008 budget proposal, the governor recommended that schools receive even more financial aid funds than the amount requested by the Arizona Board of Regents.

    Napolitano wants to pour $6.3 million into the Arizona Financial Aid Trust fund, $3.4 million more than the regents asked for.

    This session, financial aid tops the agendas of school and student representatives, who said they welcome the proposal.

    “”We’re really happy that there is such a strong commitment for financial aid,”” said Serena Unrein, executive director of the Arizona Students’ Association.

    Under the governor’s plan that was released last week, the state would match more than $2 for every $1 paid by students for financial aid, which is a sharp increase over previous years.

    Arizona regents were hoping for this increase when they set next school year’s tuition, said Robert Bulla, president of the board of regents.

    In December, board members approved a 5 percent tuition hike for in-state students, rejecting President Robert Shelton’s proposal of a 6.5 percent increase.

    Less tuition means less financial aid money from students will flow into the trust fund. Therefore, more money was needed from the Legislature, Bulla said.

    “”A lot of the tuition goes into financial aid and scholarships for students,”” he said. “”If we have lower tuition, we would not have the money to help students. We put forward a very legitimate request, and I think the governor has really done a nice job.””

    Overall, Bulla said students would benefit from the financial aid allocations, and the state’s economy would profit from the funds for research initiatives and the biomedical campus in Phoenix.

    “”We’re very pleased because she is focused on areas that will pay big dividends for not only universities and the students, but also for the state of Arizona,”” Bulla said.

    The governor’s proposal also includes funding to increase student retention and more money for higher employee wages, which could attract better faculty.

    Napolitano’s proposed budget allocates money for biomedical research, some of which would benefit the UA colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy in Phoenix.

    She wants to counter a lack of math and science teachers in the state with scholarships that could attract more students to the profession.

    “”It’s a very fair budget recommendation,”” said Charlene Ledet, special assistant in the UA’s Office of State Relations. “”I feel that the governor is supporting a lot of the key issues that we think are important. But there are still things that we hope at some point there is support for.””

    This includes money for the UA South campus in Sierra Vista. Ledet said she would have liked to continue last year’s one-time boost of $1.2 million, which is absent in the governor’s budget.

    But some local lawmakers stressed that the proposal is not in its final version.

    Rep. Jennifer Burns, R-Tucson, said Friday she wasn’t familiar yet with the budget details, but she will push for UA South funding throughout the session.

    In house bill 2568, Burns and others propose $500,000 for the campus in fiscal year 2008.

    The bill was introduced late last week and has yet to go before a committee.

    “”That it’s not in (Napolitano’s) budget at this point doesn’t concern me,”” she said.

    None of the governor’s proposals are finalized, and negotiations on the budget will continue throughout the session.

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