Cuts for Arizona Higher Education Continue

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Several years after the end of the economic recession in the United States, Arizona remains one of just two states to continue to make cuts to state funding for higher education, according to a recently released survey by the Center for the Study of Education Policy.

Results from the national survey show that the largest cuts in state support for higher education throughout the country were made by the Arizona Legislature in 2015-16, showing a 14% decline.

While Wisconsin was found to cut funding for universities by 8%, Pennsylvania and Illinois presented no increase.  However, every other state showed significant increases to higher education, with the average across the nation holding at 4%.  California increased their spending by 7%, Colorado and Nevada by a staggering 11%, Utah by 5%, and New Mexico by 2.5%.

According to the survey, the state previously had some of the lowest tuition rates in the country.  However, as a result of the budget cuts to higher education — more cuts than any other state in the last five years — Arizona schools now have some of the highest tuition rates among public universities.

Spending on higher education in the state was down 27% in fiscal year 2011.  Louisiana came in second with 25% according to survey results.

Reflected in the survey are cuts totaling $99 million in state funding for universities as well as cuts in state support for community colleges for the current fiscal year.  Increases were made by the Legislature to the $75 million cut proposed by Governor Doug Ducey for the current budget year, reports Pete Aleshire for The Payson Roundup.

In all, the reductions mean a 50% cut in state support for universities in the state over the last few years.  In 1998, the state had given 88% of the total cost to educate an undergraduate, decreasing that to around 72% in 2008, with the additional funding coming from tuition and other fees.  The Board of Regents saw this as meeting the “as nearly free as possible” limit on tuition in the state’s Constitution.

However, this year the state provided just one-third of the cost with the remainder coming from tuition, which has more than doubled to around $10,000 per year.  This change has caused tuition levels in the state to go from being in the bottom third throughout the country to the top third for public university tuition, reports Danika Worthington for Prescott eNews.

In an effort to turn things around in the state, the governor proposed a supplemental appropriation for colleges in addition to increases in higher ed support in his fiscal 2017 budget.  The supplemental would give an additional $4 million to this year’s state funding for higher education, which is currently at $791 million.  The fiscal 2017 budget seeks to increase ongoing funds by $14 million.  Of this, $8 million would go to funding a new model being pushed by university presidents that would offer financial support to students who live in-state.

“I am pleased and grateful that Gov. Ducey has adopted the formula proposed by the Arizona Board of Regents — a formula that invests directly in the education of all Arizona residents who attend an Arizona university,” said University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart. “The governor pledged last April to work with universities to develop a simple, straightforward and Arizona-focused state investment strategy. He kept his promise.”