Ducey praises universities, but praise doesn't lower tuition

I'm going to channel my inner Bill Nye and ask you to consider the following:

You have a job that you've been performing well for years, and your boss has given you a modest raise every year. Unfortunately, last year, your boss cut your salary 47 percent. This year, before announcing what your raise (or pay cut) may be, your boss praises all the work you've done in the past.

You'd probably be thinking, "Wait, you just cut a lot of money from my check." This is how I felt reading Gov. Doug Ducey's "State of the State" address on Monday night.

In his address, Gov. Ducey assures us that among other things, he has prioritized education. In his speech, he discussed increasing funding for K-12 education via Proposition 123, but his speech failed to highlight any specific measures to restore previously cut university funding. With the cuts last year, Arizona college funding has led the nation in reduction since 2008, according to a 2015 report by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. In fact, last year the state was spending 47 percent less per student ($3,053) than it did in 2008.

Schools have to make up the money somewhere, and unfortunately, Arizona has led the nation in one other statistic: college tuition hikes. A freshman today is, on average, paying 83 percent more for tuition than a freshman in 2008.

At the end of the day, Ducey barely touched on higher education. He had high remarks about how “a U of A grad recently discovered water on Mars,” and how “NAU is now a magnet for students ditching California in search of a high-quality, affordable higher education alternative.” He even had a few kind words for the ol’ Maroon and Gold, about how “the template for the New American University was in our backyard.” But, how have these universities been rewarded for their accomplishments since 2008?

Funding cuts. 

Cuts like these to Arizona public universities are like when you do an exceptionally good job of cutting the lawn one Saturday, and the next Saturday your dad decides to pay you less than he did before. But next week he’ll pay you somewhere in the middle and act like he’s making a huge investment in your lawn cutting services.

That’s what bothers me the most — it all seems hypocritical. I understand that economies are ever-fluctuating entities, and I know that for society to work (and more importantly, be funded) everyone won’t always get what they want. What bothers me, though, is that Ducey directed some of the biggest higher education cuts in this state’s history, his party has overseen a 47 percent reduction in state support to universities and unsurprisingly orchestrated an 83 percent hike in tuition costs. Yet, Ducey is attempting to appear like the savior of education by restoring money that he himself was responsible for taking away.

I’m writing this the day before Governor Ducey releases his budget, and I’d love to see the specifics on how higher education is handled. I’d love to see a budget that restores the funding Ducey cut from universities last year. History has shown me to not get my hopes up, and Proposition 123 doesn’t seem to do much of anything for universities still reeling from funding cuts. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the governor intends to pay universities anything but “’atta boys.”

Related Links:

Ducey's budget: following the road map to opportunity

Ducey, DuVal win gubernatorial primary nominations


Reach the columnist at cjwood3@asu.edu or follow @chriswood_311 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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