The crappy economy just hit home

Some of you may be aware that many states are in real financial dire-straits. Arizona is one such state. We have a strongly faltering economy (largely because of the popped housing bubble in Phoenix), a governor who is leaving for the new cabinet and legislature made of whackaloons. All of this means bad news for education budgets but I never imagined it could get this bad.

From the President of The University of Arizona today:

Earlier today legislative leadership put forward figures on possible cuts to higher education in the State of Arizona. They have suggested mid-year cuts to the university system that could total $243 million – approximately one-quarter of the entire budget, with a total reduction of $388 million into fiscal year 2010.Mid-year cuts to the University of Arizona would total $103 million under this scenario.

These figures are so extreme that they would absolutely cripple higher education in our state. At the very time that our state needs to stimulate the economy, the Legislature is talking about absolutely devastating cuts to the most powerful economic engine in our state. If enacted, these cuts would compound the current economic challenges in our state and make it harder for Arizona to recover from the recession. This is simply irresponsible.

The state needs to protect its universities – not dismantle them – if it has any hope of building an economy for the future or aspiring to more than mediocrity.

We are very conscious of the difficult deficit challenge facing the state, and all three universities are prepared to do their part to cut budgets. But cuts of this magnitude would
bring irreparable damage. It would force the closure of colleges, increase the costs for attendance, and ultimately cut access to the best hope of a better way of life for our young people. Compounding the budget cuts are proposals to micro-manage the universities. This is simply unacceptable.

We plan to continue conversations with the governor and key legislators, and to focus on helping them understand the key role that The University of Arizona plays in spurring the
economy, improving the quality of life in the state and affording access to upward mobility. And we encourage every citizen of this state who cares about their quality of life – who wants their children or grandchildren to have an opportunity to attend a quality university – to speak up now and to speak loudly. (emphasis mine)

Bad indeed. If you live in Arizona, write your legislator now! I have seen the news on education cuts at many other Universities but I have not heard of any other University system potentially facing an immediate 25% cut.  At this point it is not clear what all of this means for people like me but those that are state funding lines are, quite rightfully, freaking the fuck out.

On a more general note, I find it quite depressing that the powers that be in this state cannot see the economic downturn as an opportunity to focus on basics: education and innovation.  If the State of Arizona was to be taken as a leader in dealing with the economic troubles that we are facing we would be in for a long and drawn out depression with very little chance for recovery.  Hopefully 49 other states will ignore the dismal example that this state is about to set.

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9 responses to “The crappy economy just hit home

  1. Oh shit. I’ve got the shivers just reading that.

  2. Shit. That’s terrible. And there we were feeling bad about taking a 10% cut. This might seem like a stupid and naive question, but is there ANYWHERE ELSE that this sort of money can be saved? Surely the government should be looking to preserve education and healthcare as their joint number one priorities.

  3. PIT, I don’t know but based on what has happened in the collapse of the Phoenix housing market and the corresponding tax revenues, I doubt it.

    DrdrA, I’ll tell you what, this whole thing makes me long for the days of the University of Texas system. I distinctly remember several occassions when similar things were proposed (not as deep in terms of cuts but close) and the Board of Regents would immediately jump into action. They: 1) wielded an enormous amount of influence and 2) would immediately start raising funds. Neither of those things are going to happen here as the announcement has done nothing but start immediate panic mode operations. I am afraid we are screwed.

  4. I find it very difficult to tell what the cuts would be from the way that is written.
    For one thing 103/243 is way more than 25%… in other words, “state cuts 25% of funds given to all universities but 43% from U Arizona” (which could make some UofA folks kinda bitter; though I do honestly think there’s a lot more to cut there than there is at Nothern… I know less about Astate).
    For another thing, it’s not like it’s a 43%, or even a 25%, decrease in UofA’s total budget… it would be a decrease of the portion that comes from the state… which looks to be about 35% (source: http://www.budgetoffice.arizona.edu/documents/Current%20Operating%20Budget.pdf)… so the impact on the university’s budget would be about a 15% decrease.
    And if you haven’t figured out why Arizona is hit harder than other states, it’s because
    1) you voted for nice, conservative, pork-cutting politicans, who decided it’s *always* critical to have a balanced budget.
    2) although right now it probably seems like a bad idea, from my perspective getting 35% of your funding from the state sounds like a huge luxury. In my Pennsylvania “state affiliated” university I think we get 4%. Incidently, even with the $103 million dollar cut, assuming no compensatory increase in income elsewhere by the university, you’d be getting 29% of your funding from the state. So, I doubt it helps, but at least Arizona doesn’t screw over UofA as much as Pennsylvania screws over PennState.

  5. Becca, no, it doesn’t help.

    The budget cuts would affect people on state lines (humanities-type departments), health care costs within the state supported hospitals (our major hospital in this city) and they would strongly increase tuition rates. This decreases access to education at exactly the wrong time. It is one thing to gradually cut budgets and give institutions time to make up for it. It is quite another to cut budget by 20% in the middle of a fiscal year. There is no way to make up for those kind of cuts without layoffs, cuts in academic programs and outright closures of programs. All of these things will lead to an exodus of talent. If you were a top-flight student would you stay? If you were a parent would you stay? They’re looking at similar cuts for K-12 education!

    Your comment on pork is an important one. There is an important senator from this state who recently lost a presidential election. He has not inserted pork spending into a bill in years. This leads to a huge loss in federal funding opportunities for AZ that can not be compensated for easily. He has been doing this state a great disservice for many years yet his support continues to remain high throughout the state with the exception of the Tucson area.

  6. Prof-like Substance

    Where would top students go? It’s not like the same type of thing isn’t happening everywhere that doesn’t have an ivy endowment. Our state cut funding to us by 40% but it was only 10% of the overall budget.

  7. Wow. That is a truly frightening prospect.
    And I do agree with you JP that this is precisely the wrong time to decrease access to education.

  8. Our state funds are probably going to be cut an additional 15% on top of the 5% we already got cut. The problem for us is that all the state really funds any more is salaries, so we’re looking at potentially a large layoff of personnel (estimates are up to 20% of the staff/faculty).

  9. i spend my time at a private uni, and they’ve implemented some pretty strong handed cost-cutting measures. the endowment lost a lot in the market, and panic ensued.

    of course now i wonder about that state uni position i was considering… hmm.

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