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Arizona Leads the Nation in Higher-Education Funding Cuts and Tuition Increases

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Arizona is leading the nation in both cuts to higher-education funding and increases in tuition costs since 2008.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities looked at pre-recession levels of higher-ed funding and tuition costs in all 50 states. Though a vast majority of states made both funding cuts and tuition increases, the cuts and increases were the most drastic in Arizona.

See also:
-From 2011: Arizona's Public Universities Plan All-Time High Tuition

According to this analysis, only two states, Alaska and North Dakota, are currently funding higher education at a higher level than they were in 2008 (and yes, that's adjusted for inflation).

For Arizona, the higher-education funding in 2014 is more than 48 percent lower than it was in 2008. In dollars, that's down more than $3,000 in funding per student.

As with any budget, state university systems really had only two options to respond to these cuts -- a combination of cutting spending and increasing tuition.

In Arizona, tuition has gone up more than 80 percent since 2008, which amounts to an increase of nearly $4,500 -- the largest increases in the country.

Despite the huge increase in tuition costs, the state's universities have also made spending cuts.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report cites a statement released by the Arizona Board of Regents back in 2011, when Governor Jan Brewer proposed a $170 million cut to funding the state's three public universities:

State cuts to higher education funding have been exacerbated by rapid enrollment growth. Enrollment has grown 15 percent from FY08 to FY11 and is projected to grow to 19 percent through FY12. As a result of the $230 million in cuts that began in FY08 the University System has eliminated more than 2,100 positions (an 11 percent reduction in workforce); merged, consolidated or disestablished 182 colleges, schools, programs and departments; closed eight extended campuses; delayed degree programs, and has been forced to raise tuition significantly to retain quality and program offerings.

Lately, the university funding in most states has been creeping back.

According to this report, 42 states increased funding for university systems from 2013 to 2014.

The 2014 Arizona state budget includes $28.8 million in new spending for universities, which is estimated to come out to $143 per student -- the 37th-biggest increase of the 50 states.

The 2015 budget just passed last month includes $38.5 million in new funding. Next year's state budgets aren't taken into account in this Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report.

The organization, which has been accused of being left-leaning, writes the following conclusion of all states' choices of funding higher education during the recession:

State policymakers relied overwhelmingly on spending cuts to make up for lost revenues. They could have lessened the need for higher education funding cuts if they had used a more balanced mix of spending cuts and revenue increases to balance their budgets.

To compensate for lost state funding, public colleges have both steeply increased tuition and pared back spending, often in ways that may compromise the quality of the education and jeopardize student outcomes. Now is the time to renew investment in higher education to promote college affordability and quality.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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