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Next round of university budget cuts may hit $390M

The Associated Press


The Associated Press

Key Arizona legislators identified possible budget cut options Thursday that could approach approximately $390 million for the statewide university system.

A figure of that magnitude would be double the $191.5 million in cuts recently instituted for Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona by the Legislature for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

Those reductions, from a total of $1.13 billion appropriated for the universities, helped eliminate the state’s $1.6 billion budget shortfall brought on by the crumbling economy.

The universities also get money from tuition and federal grants.

State Board of Regents President Fred Boice told legislators at a hearing in Phoenix that possible new cuts would “cause severe damage.”

Boice told legislators that regents and the universities’ administrators recognize that there are more cuts coming “that are severe and will have to be severe.”

But he said that 85 percent of the universities’ budgets go toward employee costs, so while any cuts implemented will hurt employees, “of course our students will suffer” too, because layoffs will translate to fewer and larger classes and mean lengthening the time it takes many students to graduate.

“What we have to be very careful of at the University of Arizona is that we do not in a very short period of time destroy . . . a great research university,” President Robert Shelton said.

Research programs at the university drew $530 million in federal and other grants during the current year, but Shelton said that figure probably will be reduced some next year.

“If the U of A doesn’t succeed in competing for federal research dollars with Cal Tech, Johns Hopkins and MIT, I can assure you that those funds will go elsewhere,” he said.

Shelton also said the university remains committed to a biomedical campus in Phoenix. But he cautioned, “If we make any further cuts, we might as well start closing up that shop or drop back to a maintenance level.”

ASU President Michael Crow said his university’s mission as a comprehensive metropolitan research university is to make it an institution accessible to the general population.

“We will remain committed to this mission come-what-may, no matter what,” Crow said. “It is our mission” — regardless of the level of investment that the Legislature makes.

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