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The devastation of higher education in Arizona

Here’s the University of Arizona president’s statement on the Draconian cuts our legislators propose to inflict on the state’s already constricted higher education system:

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 wouldbring 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 theeconomy, 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.

It is wrong to balance the state’s budget on the backs of its citizens’ children. That is what the massive budget cuts proposed for the state’s university system will do: penalize our young people for the crimes and stupidity of our country’s political and financial leadership. This is unfair and simplywrong.
The proposed Arizona State University budget cuts for 2009 and 2010 would be the largest higher education budget reduction in the state’s history. Cuts of this magnitude would require ASU to reduce costs by up to $126 million and $194 million next fiscal year.
If every student at ASU decided, voluntarily, to donate an equal portion to the State of Arizona to make up for these slashes, each student would have to cough up $1,880.59 this year and $2,895.52 next year. To survive, clearly ASU will have to raise its tuition by about those amounts.
These are not students who can afford private colleges or universities in other states. Most attend ASU because it’s what they can afford to pay for, and for many, the existing inflated tuition is a hardship. [If you have a relevant personal experience, insert it here; in any event, delete the following, which I’m leaving as a for-instance: My son wants to pursue a master’s degree at ASU but is given pause by the prospect of student loans that could put him in hock for decades.Not years:decades.Any increase will be a hardship for him. You can be certain that spikes in tuition of that size will keep him out of graduate school. He won’t be alone.] These proposed funding cuts and the tuition increases that will inevitably follow will bar many of Arizona’s young people from four-year degree programs, period.
ASU is prepared to do its fair share to help our state out of the budget crisis; however, these proposed disproportionate cuts are simply impossible to institute without gutting the university.
Seven hundred jobs have already been lost at ASU. The proposed drastic cuts to ASU’s budget will mean large numbers of university staff and faculty will lose their jobs. More programs will be dismantled, more course sections will be combined to make impossibly huge classes, and more classes will be eliminated. This will demolish the quality of higher education that our state has so desperately needed and for which legislative and educational leaders have worked so hard. It will set the state back two generations.

Crippling cuts will also severely compromise our state’s future, so much so it may never recover. Our legislators must realize the long-term consequences that are not easily reversible, such as lost business, workforce and related revenues. To fail to acknowledge this is not only poor public policy, it’s irresponsible and unconscionable.

Don’t wait. If you live in Arizona, write to your legislators now. If you have friends or relatives who live in Arizona, urge them to write. If you give a damn about young people, write to Arizona’s congressional leaders and governor. Our future depends on it. Our children’s future depends on it. Our grandchildren’s future depends on it.

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