Gov. Brewer recommends increased funding for ASU, NAU in budget proposal

For the second consecutive year, Gov. Jan Brewer’s budget recommendation called for an increase in state funding going to ASU and NAU in an effort to provide per-student state funding equal to that of UA.

A total of $12 million in additional funding would go to ASU and $3.3 million would go to NAU during fiscal year 2014 under the proposal.

Brewer attended the Arizona Board of Regents meeting on Thursday to ask the board for its support of her budget recommendation.

ABOR voted to support the resolution, despite a single “no” vote by student regent Tyler Bowyer.

He said he felt the proposal was “potentially going to constrain higher education.”

All three presidents of Arizona’s public universities also supported the budget proposal.

ASU President Michael Crow said he was “strongly supportive” of Brewer’s higher education policy.

Beginning with the fiscal year 2013, Brewer initiated a five-year plan to eliminate the per-student funding disparities. Prior to the initiative, UA was receiving more state funding per student than its in-state counterparts, according to a disparity study compiled by ABOR and the three in-state universities.

Undergraduate Student Government Downtown President Joseph Grossman said the parity funding issue is important.

“Performance-based funding doesn’t really work until each student is receiving equal funds from the state,” Grossman said.

Brewer’s proposal will provide a “stronger basis” for a performance-based funding initiative that rewards the universities with state dollars based on their success as educational institutions, Grossman said.

The disparity study, developed using the fiscal year 2011 budget, showed that ASU received $896 less in state funding per student than UA. NAU received $758 less per student.

According to the study, an additional $76.4 million in state funds would need to be allocated to ASU and NAU to achieve equal per-student funding across the three universities.

The amount was divided into five segments of $15.3 million to be distributed over five years, beginning with fiscal year 2013.

The proposal for fiscal year 2014 shows the second of the five installments being appropriated to ASU and NAU.

Performance-based funding began concurrently to the per-student funding initiative with the fiscal year 2013 budget.

ABOR developed a formula for allocating funds based on performance, which Brewer required for the fiscal year 2012 budget. The formula was applied to about 1 percent of funds going to the universities in fiscal year 2013.

Brewer said she would like the amount of funding subject to the formula to increase to approximately 10 percent of university funds within the next three years beginning with fiscal year 2014, according to the budget proposal.

Brewer has been “innovative” in driving dollars to higher education, said Dennis Hoffman, economics professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Hoffman said the governor’s budget recommendation would be beneficial to the in-state public universities.

“Those dollars are going to end up in scholarship dollars and in the classroom,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman, the director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute, said he has seen a reduction in cost subsidization of the institute by ASU in recent years.

The institute must now win contracts from other parts of the University, corporations and nonprofits to fund itself because University funding is going directly to the classroom, Hoffman said.

Opponents to the proposal might question whether it is the responsibility of the student to earn a degree or the obligation of an institution to help them do so, which is a “traditional model of thinking,” Hoffman said.

The institution of performance-based funding models in higher education is being discussed all over the country, said Tom Harnisch, assistant director of State Relations and Policy Analysis at the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

“(Performance-based funding) is going to be a huge issue this year,” he said. “With the current economic situation, states are looking for more efficient ways to fund higher education. This is one of them.”

The governor’s budget proposal also sets aside a potential fund of $20 million for “soft capital,” such as computers and equipment. It would be divided between the three universities based on student enrollment and is intended to be a one-time fund.

 

Reach the reporter at svhabib@asu.edu or follow her @discoanddessert