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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA tops in state per-student funding

The UA has historically received thousands of more dollars from the state general fund per full-time equivalent (FTE) than the other Arizona universities, a disparity that could be another reason for an ongoing debate to switch to a performance-based funding model for higher education.

Performance-based funding is part of a national trend that would link state funding with gains in certain performance areas. These areas, called “”metrics,”” include things such as enrollment, graduation rates and research spending.

The state Legislature required the Arizona Board of Regents to create metrics for growth and productivity as well as annual targets for each metric through 2020.

In fiscal year 2008, the UA received $4,599 more than Arizona State University and $3,917 more than Northern Arizona University in funding per FTE. In fiscal year 2011, the UA received $3,480 more than ASU and $3,046 more than NAU in funding per FTE.

The funding is despite the fact that the UA has increased its enrollment the least out of the three universities since 2008, by about 6 percent, while ASU has increased by about 9 percent and NAU by about 16 percent, according to a report by the board of regents.

The UA’s per-FTE funding has been higher for a variety of reasons. This includes having the only medical school of the three universities, as well as its historically differentiated mission.

Sarah Harper, the regents’ director of public affairs, explained that the UA was founded as a land-grant institution with unique missions in education, research, community service and later as a base for the state’s medical college. ASU and NAU, however, were primarily founded as teacher-preparation colleges. The UA’s expansion with a medical school and volume of research then impacted the cost structure difference between the universities.

The presidents of the three Arizona universities are working on a recommendation to address the issue of per-student funding, according to Harper, because ASU and NAU have experienced “”tremendous growth”” in enrollment and research activity in the last decade.

Harper said that ASU had the fastest growing research enterprise over the last five years among U.S. universities with research portfolios exceeding $100 million in expenditures. NAU has expanded its public service and high-demand graduate programs in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and health sciences. Although per-student funding is being addressed, Harper said that these mission shifts in the three Arizona universities have created a system where each of the schools is now similar in basic cost structure.

The difference in funding per FTE throughout the years between the three Arizona universities could be why the state and regents are considering performance-based funding.

Arizona Students’ Association Chair Dan Fitzgibbon said that the funding per FTE may shed some light on why the regents are interested in moving toward an outcomes-based model. Funding per FTE, he explained, does not take program differentiation into account.

Associated Students of the University of Arizona President James Allen explained that an outcome-based model has the potential to reward quality and success beyond current funding levels, if earned by the universities. If the universities are to increase performance, he said, more must be invested in higher education.

“”The universities are running at ‘70s-level funding, and not only will increased funding grow productivity, but investment in our state’s universities will pay significant returns down the road,”” Allen added.

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