Arizona lawmakers passed a budget over the weekend, which includes spending cuts that the president of the state's largest university calls a "setback for Arizonans."
The state is making a $99 million cut to higher education as part of the $9.1 billion budget, which Governor Doug Ducey's office says "solves the state's structural deficit while protecting essential services for vulnerable populations."
Arizona State University President Michael Crow, who's been critical of this year's budget process since Ducey first proposed a $74 million cut to higher education earlier this year, does not seem to anticipate a better Arizona thanks to the budget.
"This drastic remedy to the state's budget troubles represents a setback for Arizonans who already are frustrated by the state's sluggish economic recovery," Crow says in a statement. "The real consequences of this cut will be felt not only by Arizona's institutions of higher education but also by the students whom we serve. The ramifications for the state's economy will take years to play out because it is our colleges and universities that produce Arizona's strongest asset: educated young men and women trained to play leading roles in a rapidly changing world."
Crow says the university will now develop a plan to figure out how to deal with the hit to its budget.
Crow has said that previous budget cuts to university funding have been direct causes of tuition increases in recent years, but he has said tuition would not be raised for in-state students next year.
We asked the Governor's Office to respond to Crow's comments, and here's what Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato told New Times:
"Governor Ducey is proud that Arizona passed a bipartisan balanced budget in a swift and responsible manner. This budget makes real, permanent decisions to ensure government isn't spending more money than it takes in, while also protecting the areas Arizonans know are vital. In total, 49 percent of the budget goes toward education, K-12 and universities combined. The state's investment in higher education is significant -- $600 million, which is 7 percent of our entire general fund budget. The universities will spend more, not less, in the year ahead. This is a values-based budget that sets priorities, solves problems and tightens the belt so that government isn't spending money that doesn't exist."By some measures, Arizona already made the biggest cuts to higher education during the recession years. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a national think tank, found that per-student funding for university students in Arizona decreased by 50 percent from 2008 to 2013, the largest such cut in the country.
The organization also found that Arizona had the largest university tuition increases in that same time span.
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