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University funding bill meets opposition

By Andrea Kelly
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 8, 2005
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Phoenix - Though the UA South campus elimination was taken out of consideration, a university funding bill that passed in a House of Representatives committee yesterday still met some foes.

The bill, as it reads now, would create a formula for university enrollment-growth funding based on the number of full-time students, allow community colleges to offer certain four-year baccalaureate degrees, and eliminate provisional community college districts, among other changes.

Most community colleges supported the bill because it would give them the ability to offer four-year degrees in law enforcement services, fire services, health professions such as nursing, teacher education, and any area that is workforce-related and that the universities do not offer four-year degrees for.

The bill would limit the community colleges in that they could only create four-year bachelor's degrees for areas in which they already offer a two-year associate's degree.

The three university presidents sent a letter to the members of a House Appropriations committee last week stating, while they supported the effort representatives were making, all of the answers to university funding problems were not encompassed in the bill.

"We appreciate the efforts to address various issues related to higher education in Arizona," said the letter, signed by all three university presidents and the president of the Arizona Board of Regents.

The letter said the proposal for funding based on full-time students, or enrollment growth, was "certainly headed in the right direction," but the presidents wanted confirmation on where the funding would come from.

"Any adjustments to the per-student funding formula should include a clear indication of the funding source," the letter said. In other proposals, "we were concerned with funding enrollment growth out of a major portion of tuition collections, and we continue to have those concerns."

The letter also said the "total overhaul" of funding and four-year degrees "should be approached with thoughtfulness and caution," and the presidents supported additional financial aid funding.

Last week the bill included the elimination of UA's south campus in Sierra Vista, but Greg Fahey, UA lobbyist, said President Peter Likins expressed his adamant opposition clearly to members of the committee, including the bill sponsor, and when the bill was formally considered yesterday, the elimination was no longer a part of it.

The biggest opposition to the bill came from citizens and local government of Payson. They were against another elimination proposed in the bill, that of Gila County Provisional Community College, a community college in Payson.

Provisional community colleges are not able to award degrees and must work with another college, in this case, Pima Community College, to award students' degrees.

The bill proposes the elimination of all provisional community colleges, though the only one in the state is in Payson.

If passed, the bill, HB2079, would use tax funds that now go to the provisional community colleges to fund out-of-county tuition at other state community colleges.

Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, said he proposed the elimination because that college is not doing its job.

"This system has gone from 950 (students) to 400," Allen said. "It's not exactly serving its community in the way we had hoped."

The bill passed the committee by an 8-5 vote, and will go on to another committee before it faces a vote in the full House of Representatives.

The "no" votes came from representatives who said they were concerned with a lot of the issues in the bill, including the elimination of the community college in Payson, the affect various parts of the bill would have on universities and community colleges individually, and the lack of input they felt those two groups had in the creation of the bill.

Rep. Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, chairman of the committee, assured those members that the bill was still "a work in progress," and would continue to be amended as various parties' concerns were addressed.

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