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UA plauged by Arizona's failing economy

By Daniel Scarpinato

"I believe that we are going to find the $14 million without a midyear tuition hike. I have always said no - unless the governor lays a burden on us in December that is vastly larger than $14 million."
- UA President Peter Likins

Friday October 26, 2001

UA continues to be plagued by failing Arizona economy

Arizona's three universities entered the fall semester with the threat of having to send millions of state dollars back to lawmakers to compensate for a $250 million state deficit.

Since then, Arizona's economy has continued to dwindle, and the state deficit has risen to more than $650 million with the possibility of growing more once figures from the post-Sept. 11 period are released.

In September, Gov. Jane Dee Hull asked all state agencies to cut their budgets midyear to offset the state's shortfall.

The University of Arizona must cut 4 percent - roughly $13.8 million - from its 2002 fiscal year budget, and student lobbyist groups are hoping that amount does not grow when the state Legislature meets for a special session in Phoenix on Nov. 13.

UA administrators spent late September and early October looking for ways to pull money from departments and programs to hand back to the state at that special session.

So far, officials have managed to target cuts in areas they feel have "the least negative effect on students," but many realize that the cutting process is only in the early stages.

The Integrated Learning Center, the UA's $20 million underground computer and learning center, that will be dedicated today; due to the cuts, the high-tech components of the facility have been trimmed back almost entirely.

In addition, officials have implemented a hiring freeze to last until Dec. 1 and have pulled back money for student advising reform, travel expenses and the UA's billion dollar Campaign Arizona fundraiser.

Earlier this month, UA President Peter Likins announced that the Arizona International College - a liberal arts college with 417 students - will be phased out over the next few years, but those students will still be given the chance to earn a degree.

The AIC cost the UA $2,259,000 this year, which will aid in shrinking the $13.8 million cut.

Likins said early this month that a midyear tuition hike is not something he has on the table.

"I believe that we are going to find the $14 million without a midyear tuition hike," he said. "I have always said no - unless the governor lays a burden on us in December that is vastly larger than $14 million."

Officials are now confident that Hull will recommend not cutting Arizona's universities any more than 4 percent, although the state Legislature will have the final say as to how large the cuts will be.

Francie Noyes, the governor's press secretary, said Hull will do everything she can to "hold the line" so, despite the growing deficit, the proposed cuts do not slice more than $13.8 million from the UA's budget.

"The governor is trying to protect education," Noyes said last week. "She has already made it very clear that (kindergarten through 12th grade funding) will not be cut."

Ultimately, however, the decision belongs to the Legislature, not Hull, Noyes said.

UA staff salary increases scheduled for April 2002 may also be in jeopardy. The 5 percent raises were approved by the Legislature last spring.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee issued a report last week saying that staff may have to wait until July for those raises, and employees making more than $75,000 a year may not receive a raise at all.

Hull is expected to issue her recommended cuts to the Legislature sometime before the Nov. 13 special session.

Arizona Student Association - a student lobbyist group - and the Parents' Association are encouraging students and parents to attend the special session and to write letters to the Legislature.

For more information on how to participate in the budget crisis, contact ASA at 621-6306.


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