Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Higher education must be a higher priority in the budget

The $75 million cut to our state universities that Governor Ducey has requested in his budget not only further burdens institutions that have seen their budgets slashed by 48 percent since 2008, but will further weaken our state's ability to recover from the recession and compete with other states economically.

It is well documented that cutting higher education funding jeopardizes the economic future of both students and the state. Here's why:

  • More and more jobs require a college degree as a prerequisite, with one report projecting that 65 percent of all jobs will require at least some college education by 2020. As this demand for educated workers increases, states that have made deep cuts to higher education during the recession but fail to quickly reverse those cuts will be at a distinct disadvantage to states that have restored their university funding.
So we know states that cut higher education will not be prepared to compete for jobs in the near future, but how bad off can Arizona really be? In this case, we're number one - but not in a good way.

  • Cut per-student higher education spending by 48.3 percent - the most of any state.

  • Increased university tuition by 80.6 percent - the most of any state.

  • Cut more than 2,100 positions; consolidated or eliminated 182 colleges, schools, programs, and departments; and closed eight extension campuses as of 2011.

In his state of the state address, Governor Ducey said, "In Arizona, education excellence is a priority." Yet he cuts an additional $75 million from our universities while committing $100 million over three years to build more private prisons. And word is the total cuts could be even more than $75 million - an idea the Arizona Republic called "troubling on so many levels."

This year's budget could prioritize education above incarceration but as it stands now, the only guaranteed future job growth looks like corrections.

Today at 2 p.m. our state universities will make their arguments for why we shouldn't make more cuts to higher education before the Senate Appropriations Committee. We urge you to join us in person or watch online and contact your legislators to tell them that higher education should have a higher priority in this year's budget.

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