Governor's new budget plan gives $8 million to universities

The governor released a 2019 budget plan that offers a small uptick in university funding

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey plans to focus a considerable bulk of state funds on public education, according to the new budget plan that he released last week. State lawmakers say funding education, including public universities, is their biggest priority this legislative session.

The budget allocates about $1 billion to state universities for infrastructure, maintenance and research funding; ASU is receiving almost $329 million from the general fund. 

Ducey also said the budget will focus on expanding K-12 education and maintaining public university funding at fiscal year 2018 levels. 

This proposal is one of the first steps in passing Arizona's new budget for the next year. 

The budget will also distribute $8 million to the state's three public universities, according to Ashley Beason, a budget analyst for the governor's office. Beason said the money will be divided among the universities based on student population.

"So for this $8 million, we aren't putting any restrictions on what they can use it for," Beason said. "They can use it for capital means, or they can use it for mitigating the cost of education for resident students, which is also a focus for the universities right now."

Data collected from the FY 2019 budget proposal

According to Jim Sliwicki, the director of budget operations at ASU, the money given to ASU from the state currently is by no means enough to operate the University efficiently, which has lead to tuition increases.

"So over the years, as we become less reliant on the state general fund, we've had to increase tuition to maintain quality," Sliwicki said. 

Arizona lawmakers are not convinced that the money provided for education in this budget is enough. Representative Mitzi Epstein (D-Ahwatukee) says it's not quite enough.

"That's a step in the right direction in the marathon that we are running here," Epstein said. "We have well-trained teachers, but what we need is money for our educators and all the other staff to be paid adequately."

The FY 2019 budget proposal from the governor shows that the amount of money allocated to universities from year to year has remained relatively constant. The net change in the ASU general fund from 2018-19 was around $8.5 million.

Sliwicki said that education is often one of the first items to be cut.

"We have a base (budget) but annually there are incremental changes to it and they are not always positive," Sliwicki said. "If the state is looking for money, or is in a recession, or it's in a situation where it has to cut budget, it can come to the universities and cut."

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