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Regents approve $489M budget for UA

Photo courtesy of Lisa Olson/The State Press
UA President Pete Likins talks about the future of UA during the Arizona Board of Regents meeting held yesterday at ASU's Memorial Union.
By Natasha Bhuyan and Lisa Rich
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 1, 2004
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TEMPE - The Arizona Board of Regents approved state university budget requests yesterday, which could grant the UA a total of $489 million for the 2006 fiscal year.

Dick Roberts, UA budget director, said this year the UA is focused on increasing the percentage of graduates and reducing the average years it takes students to graduate.

The state universities requested two graduation incentives at $2.9 million, which would reward $100,000 for every 0.5 percent increase in graduates and $100,000 for every 0.1 percent decrease in the average graduation time.

In the past, the average student spent approximately six years at UA before graduating, Roberts said. That number has dropped to 4.75 years, but with graduation incentives, the university is hoping to improve the average to four years.

In 2002, the graduation rate was 55 percent, a figure Likins called embarrassing. Although the figure has increased 2 percent, Likins said "57 percent is not an acceptable number."

UA's graduation incentives package totals $866,300.

A $71 million package was also approved for the three state universities, where the UA would receive a total of $32 million for health sciences and health care delivery, a water initiative and a program to enrich Arizona K-12 schools.

Likins said the $20 million funding for heath sciences and health care delivery would assist in research and "recognizing health disparities in Arizona" in addition to providing comprehensive health care, including a focus on cancer, diabetes and neurological diseases.

"(It's) critical to linking the research to effective practice," Likins said.

A tri-university water initiative would grant $10 million to the UA to expand water programs to competently address water issues, such as drought, water distribution, and water quality, Likins said.

Currently, the UA is one of the world's leading institutions in hydrology.

With federal and state funding, Likins said researchers could learn how to deal with water limitations more efficiently in this "arid environment."

"We can invest more to help this very daunting and yet unrecognized challenge of drought and overpopulation," Likins said.

The final part of the decision package would grant $2 million to an enrichment program for Arizona K-12 schools, designed to improve early childhood and adolescent education, teacher development and community education and involvement.

All budget requests will be sent to the governor's office by Oct. 4 for final approval.

Other business discussed at the meeting included the continual problem of faculty salaries.

Likins said the UA needs $135.8 million to raise salaries to be competitive with other universities nationwide.

UA faculty members have expressed concerns regarding pay compression and equity, Likins said.

However, Regent President Gary Stuart said there is "no money in the state system to deal with the unmet needs of the faculty."

Stuart added the board has two choices: abandon the effort to increase faculty salary or face the challenge as a board with internal resources.

"We have an obligation to our faculty to do everything we can," Stuart said. "We need a more focused effort."

Since the situation has deteriorated in the past eight years, Stuart suggested the board hire a study group to analyze different funding possibilities.

Stuart also said universities could attempt to reallocate internal funds, much like the UA did with Focused Excellence, a plan which narrows the emphasis of university programs to provide more specialized education.

Proposed in 2003, Likins said the plan has already reallocated $3.4 million per year, approximately $5 million to date, from cutting and merging programs. On top of strengthening specific fields, this system reduced the faculty salary need from $182 million to $136 million.

Also approved by ABOR was UA's Five-Year Strategic Plan, which outlined objectives for the university and standards for enrollment.

Likins said the campus capacity is estimated to reach no more than 40,000 students, which he hopes to achieve slowly in order to increase the success rate of students.

"It's a deliberate strategy of slowing growth to ensure we get better, not bigger," Likins said.

One way of getting better is by increasing ethnic diversity on campus, a goal Likins said is slowly being accomplished.

Likins pointed out the percent of Hispanic students in the 2004 freshman class is 15.3 percent, up from 14.3 percent last year.

Overall, minority retention from freshman to sophomore year has also increased, from 76 percent to 79 percent.

"Excellence is guiding everything we do," Likins said. "Including a rich learning environment, which is a diverse learning environment."

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