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Senate budget plan could scale back ASU financial aid

Budget talks: ASU President Michael Crow addresses the potential effects of University budget cuts Tuesday in a meeting with The State Press editorial board. (Photo by Nathan Meacham)
Budget talks: ASU President Michael Crow addresses the potential effects of University budget cuts Tuesday in a meeting with The State Press editorial board. (Photo by Nathan Meacham)

ASU could be forced to reduce financial aid to students if the state approves budget cuts beyond Gov. Jan Brewer’s proposed $170 million.

With larger cuts to higher education proposed in the state Legislature, ASU President Michael Crow said Tuesday there are few other areas the University could cut to save money since so much else has been cut in recent years.

“We would have little choice at that point but to begin looking at financial aid,” Crow said in a meeting with The State Press editorial board on Tuesday. “That’s the last place for us to look, but it’s the one place that remains.”

State senators passed a budget proposal March 16 that would cut $235 million from the state’s university system.

The three universities and the Arizona Board of Regents have been working since January to meet Brewer’s proposed $170 million cuts. That’s also the number administrators used to plan tuition increases for next fall.

Under Brewer’s proposal, ASU would have to make up about $78 million in cuts. Crow plans for the University to absorb 60 percent of the $78 million loss by reducing spending. The other 40 percent would come from tuition, including a $1,240 increase for most in-state undergraduates.

If the Senate’s $235 million cuts are approved, ASU could face losing at least $100 million in state funding. Crow said Tuesday he doesn’t plan to request a larger tuition increase in that scenario, but financial aid could then take a hit.

Before cutting financial aid offers, Crow said, administrators would look for more ways to lower costs and help streamline the institution. He added, however, that there’s not much room left to do that.

“We’re pretty close to the edge of that right now,” he said.

The Senate’s proposal, which awaits action in the House of Representatives, also calls to eliminate the state’s contribution to a financial aid fund, known as the Arizona Financial Aid Trust Fund.

The aid program was established in 1989 with the backing of the Arizona Students’ Association. One-third of the program’s money comes from a student fee and two-thirds come from state funds. Last year the program awarded more than $14 million to students.

The Senate plan’s passage could mean the loss of financial aid from the state along with less financial aid from the University.

“It’s a double whammy,” ASA Chair Elma Delic said.

Students across the state will protest the Senate’s proposal on Wednesday. ASA is organizing protests at all three state universities, including all four campuses at ASU.

One positive sign for the University is Brewer’s dissatisfaction with the Senate’s plan. The Arizona Republic published a guest editorial from Brewer on Tuesday, in which the governor said the Senate’s cuts “are not in the best interest of Arizona.

“It should come as no surprise to anyone that I still support my budget proposal over the Senate plan,” she said.

Crow said he sees this as a good indication that education cuts will stay at $170 million this year.

“I’m counting on the fact that the governor’s budget will be maintained,” he said.

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