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Proposal addresses per-student funding disparity

February 20, 2012

The Arizona state legislature has directed the three state universities, under the jurisdiction of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), to recommend a funding structure that addresses the issue of per-student funding disparities among the universities. The disparity is historical and based on historical differences in mission that no longer exist.
Last year Arizona State University received nearly $900 less in state funding per student than the University of Arizona, while Northern Arizona University received nearly $760 less per student than UA. In fiscal 2011, UA got $6,598 per full-time student in state funding, ASU got $5,702 and NAU got $5,840.
ABOR has delivered the study and is asking the state legislature to phase in additional funding over five years, beginning in fiscal year 2013, to help ASU and NAU catch up with UA on a per-student funding basis.
The regents are requesting $15.3 million in unearmarked money in fiscal 2013, with the rest phased in over four years. The state legislature and governor need to approve the funding.
The change could eventually bring nearly $60 million more annually to ASU and $16.5 million more to NAU. UA would not lose or gain any funding under the proposal.

The university presidents unanimously support the plan.
In the last decade both ASU and NAU have experienced explosive enrollment growth for which state dollars were not increased significantly. In addition, ASU has become a major research university, ranking 69th among the top research institutions in the country. Enrollment and research growth drove changes in ASU’s cost structure, which now approximates that of UA.
NAU aslo has expanded its selective research mission, but the changes in its cost structure result mainly from an unprecedented and unfunded enrollment growth and expansion in public service and high-cost, high-demand graduate and professional programs in STEM and health sciences.
Since the 1990s, during the time period that cost structures grew less divergent, the state general fund appropriation support per student differential that favored the University of Arizona grew substantially.
Due to these mission shifts, the three universities today are very similar in their basic cost structure. General fund appropriation levels per student have not kept pace and are not reflective of the cost structure similarities.
The guiding philosophy of the plan is that every student attending one of the universities is supported with a base level state appropriation at the same dollar figure.