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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The once and future budget

UA President Robert Shelton speaks with the Daily Wildcat on Monday in his office in the Administration Building. Shelton spoke about the university?s financial state and the possible rise in tuition.
UA President Robert Shelton speaks with the Daily Wildcat on Monday in his office in the Administration Building. Shelton spoke about the university?s financial state and the possible rise in tuition.

To UA President Robert Shelton, the state’s $78 million cut to the UA means one thing.

“”It means people,”” Shelton said. “”It means jobs. That’s the sad part in all of this.””

Since the state began cutting into the UA budget in 2008, the university has lost 600 employees, and Shelton said that number is likely to grow with the cuts proposed for next year.

Under Gov. Jan Brewer’s original executive proposal, the UA would have lost $67 million in funding, though the state Senate wanted to eliminate $92 million. The two sides compromised at $78 million in the budget for fiscal year 2012 that was recently passed.

Shelton said half of that amount will be covered through cuts to the university budget, and an additional $22 million in revenue will be generated through increases to tuition and fees. Proposed tuition increases are $600 for all out-of-state students and $1,500 for all residents.

The remainder of the budget shortfall, about $17 million, would have to come from the university’s reserve funds, which stand at approximately $28 million. Shelton also said the UA is conservatively anticipating a $10 million increase in operating expenses, which would all but eliminate the reserves.  

Shelton said that he “”was hearing 2013 could be stable”” from a budget perspective, and would present the UA with an opportunity to “”catch its breath”” after the cuts absorbed over the last few years, though he admitted that tuition would probably be raised next year as well.     

Shelton acknowledged the cuts were difficult but thought the proposal had been crafted taking into account all the different voices involved.

“”I look at the input I’ve had and I think our proposal is a good one,”” Shelton said. “”Maybe it’s more a balance of shared pain, making cuts like this, but we’re doing so and not harming our ability to support students.””

Shelton said he relies predominantly on student government leaders to speak for the student body. Although he acknowledged that few students vote for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona or the Graduate and Professional Student Council, he said that every student president he had ever dealt with “”worked hard to get input from all the students.””

The UA could see admitting more out-of-state students in the future, Shelton said, particularly due to a recent decision by the regents to raise the cap on the number of non-resident students from 30 percent to 40 percent of total student population.

Shelton said he would be “”shocked”” if the UA ever reached that 40 percent threshold but that it was important to have a diversity of student experiences and backgrounds.

One of the repeatedly stated goals of the regents this year has been to differentiate the missions of all three Arizona universities in order to make the system more efficient. In Shelton’s mind, this means limiting enrollment growth and continuing investments in research and development.

“”Growing the student base cuts both ways,”” Shelton said. “”I think the UA can have a reasonably sized enrollment and be fiscally stable. But equating growth with financial stability is outdated.””

Under the UA’s current five-year strategic plan, undergraduate enrollment will increase to 35,840 by the 2016 fiscal year, 18 percent more than in 2009.

Shelton also said he didn’t necessarily support legislative efforts to increase the number of Arizona institutions offering four-year degrees, such as a bill that would have set up the Arizona State University Polytechnic campus as its own university, and asked where Arizona would find the resources to build or finance new institutions.

“”There’s no doubt that the higher education system is under-built in Arizona for the population we have,”” Shelton said.

Shelton said that Arizona’s community colleges can offer their own independent four-year degrees, so long as the universities don’t offer the same path, but “”so far none of them have elected to do that.””

On privatization, Shelton said it was a “”buzz word”” that was being considered, but any program or college privatization would be years down the road. He did say that he was focused on maintaining the quality of a UA degree “”above all else.””

“”I want it to be that when you go up and meet somebody new in your business or your neighborhood and say you got your degree from the UA, they say, ‘Oh wow, that’s a great school,'”” Shelton said. “”That’s what you want to hear.””   

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