With the downturn in the economy and a state budget deficit currently at $1.6 billion, members of the state Legislature, university and college presidents are seeking ways to help cut the state’s education budget.Earlier in the month, the state Legislature issued $243 million in additional cuts to education funding, which has been met with criticism from university presidents, teachers, administrators and students.
University presidents and the Arizona Board of Regents offered a $100 million cut, which would be split up among the three state universities.
ASU’s cuts would total $45.4 million; NAU’s, $15.2 million; and UofA’s nearly $40 million.
In late January, ASU’s president, Michael Crow, outlined a mandatory furlough program for employees where, depending on the length of an individual’s furlough, the salary loss would be equivalent to 8 to 12 percent of the employee’s remaining fiscal year 2009 salary.
Community colleges are also expected to take a budget cut, although the cuts will be less than the four-year universities.
House Appropriations Chairman John Kavanagh, R-Scottsdale, is working towards pushing a proposal that would cut aid to community colleges to no more than $6 million over the remaining fiscal year. In the Senate, Appropriations Chairman Russell Pearce,R-Mesa, has called for a reduction of $12 million.
Both initiatives are expected to be debated in the coming days and weeks.
Funding for community colleges is different than at four-year universities.
According to MCC PresidentShouan Pan, MCC gets 26 percent of its revenue from tuition, 65 percent from property taxes and nine percent from the state budget.
“Because our relative portion from the state is a lot less than the state universities, our impact at this point is a lot smaller,” Pan said.
Two percent of the school’s budget has already been cut and sent to the district. The 2 percent in cuts will result in $10 million in revenue to be used in case of an emergency.
As part of the cuts, the college has frozen all except for professional travel, reduced official functions spending and decided on what positions among the school’s faculty openings to fill, according to Pan.
“There were several positions that we decided not to fill. Those won’t have direct effect on the classroom,” Pan said.
Hikes in tuition have been used in the past to create revenue when there are budget problems. The Maricopa district’s Financial Advisory Board has a recommendation going to the Governing board that would raise tuition from $71 per credit hour to $76.
“I can assure that they have done a lot of research and done a lot of thinking about this knowing that any tuition increase will affect students,” Pan said.
For the 2009-2010 fiscal year, there is a possibility there could be more severe cuts. The state’s budget deficit is expected to increase to $3 billion up from the current $1.6 billion.
Pan believes that although times will be tough, the future needs to be looked at in dealing with certain cuts.
“In difficult economic times, we’ll try to watch our wallets very carefully. Yet as an institution, we have to look beyond the recession. We need to do some investing today that will benefit for the future,” Pan said.
Pan has encourages all members of the faculty to help deal with the possible cuts.
“There are a number of suggestions and recommendations that we are looking at,” Pan said.