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UA: 20 percent further cut would equal six colleges

Citizen Staff Writer



The University of Arizona will face game-changing choices that equate to losing six colleges next year if the school has to absorb a further 20 percent cut to its budget, according to a document sent to the Governor’s Office late Friday.

Gov. Jan Brewer, searching for solutions to Arizona’s estimated $3 billion revenue shortfall next year, asked all state agencies to provide scenarios for cuts to their organizations of 5, 10, 15 and 20 percent.

The state’s three public universities and the Arizona Board of Regents did so in a 30-page document that begins with emphasizing the “maintenance of effort” provision in the federal stimulus funding package and the “crippling” effect additional cuts would have on higher education.

The nearly $800 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has more than $800 million for Arizona under the state fiscal stabilization portion of the bill. Much of that money is restricted to backfilling prior education budget cuts, but it comes with strings: States get the money only if they agree to maintain education funding at 2006 levels.

“This means that further budget cuts in excess of 8.6 percent could not be imposed on the university system without forfeiting the federal stimulus funding,” reads the letter addressed to Eileen Klein, director of Brewer’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting.

It is signed by Fred Boice, president of the Board of Regents.

Brewer can request a waiver to the maintenance of effort requirement, “but we implore her not to,” Boice wrote.

UA alone has taken about $77 million in cuts from its original state allocation of about $443 million this year. Some of the consequences of that cut have been the consolidation of four colleges into one mega-unit and the loss, mostly through attrition, of about 600 jobs.

The entire system has taken nearly $200 million in cuts this year divided among the three universities and the regents office.

Boice argued that an additional 20 percent cut would represent the elimination of state funding for more than 36,000 students – equal to nearly all of UA’s full-time student body – and equates to nearly $2,800 in additional tuition costs per student.

It is also “more than all federal scholarships and grants and all scholarships and financial aid funded by the universities,” Boice wrote.

Each of the three universities detailed “what-if” scenarios as part of the package Boice sent to Klein.

They read like horror stories at the four levels of cuts, with Arizona State University officials saying a 20 percent cut would require laying off 40 percent of its faculty supported by state funds, and Northern Arizona University representatives saying a 15 percent cut would likely mean its student health center would be closed.

UA offered “equivalent to” scenarios because officials are not yet sure how they would deal with particular cuts.

For example, UA said $15 million in permanent cuts from this year that it covered with borrowed funds from auxiliary accounts is equivalent to laying off 300 people. A 20 percent cut would be equivalent to closing six colleges.

“At this point, we don’t want to give any more comment than what is in the document,” said Stephen MacCarthy, vice president for external relations. “But I think you can see that reductions of this magnitude will profoundly impact what we can provide at the university.”

UA may face additional 20% cut to its budget

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