It has become fashionable in certain political circles to try to minimize the ramifications of the $99 million cut to the public higher education budget by presenting some misleading “facts.” For example, some people have been saying that the cut to Arizona State University represented only a 2 percent trim off the overall ASU budget.
When you hear that one, tell the people making the claim that their math is bad and their premise is wrong.
Saying that the $53 million in cuts assigned to ASU represent a 2 percent cut to the overall budget misses the mark by millions. But to even suggest that the cut in state funds could be applied to the overall budget signals a lack of understanding about the university’s funding – or a lack of respect for the truth.
Suggesting that all of the university’s revenue is available to backstop the cut in state funding is akin to suggesting that a family whose income is reduced should use mortgage money to pay for medication. The mortgage bill continues to come every month.
The truth is that much of ASU’s funding flows to the university for a specific purpose and is restricted by law or by contract from being diverted to support the instructional mission of the university.
- Research funding is provided specifically for contracted research projects and cannot be used to supplant instructional costs. As most of these dollars flow from the federal government, the diversion of such funds carries significant penalties.
- Revenue from non-instructional, but related activities must be used to fulfill the contracts that the revenue comes from.
The truth is that the state’s primary interest in higher education is to support students from Arizona who wish to seek a college education, and that the nearly $1,000 cut per in-state student represents a 22 percent cut in funding for that purpose.
The percentage of adults with a college degree is the single best predictor of the overall health of a state’s economy, but as the state has been steadily decreasing its investment in higher education Arizona’s rate of college attainment has fallen behind that of many other Western states.
Given what is at stake, it’s important to get the facts right about the investment in higher education in Arizona:
Since 2008, state funding has been cut by almost 58 percent.
When adjusted for inflation, the state funding per full-time student at ASU is approximately equal to the funding levels the university enjoyed in 1957.
– Kevin Galvin is vice president for media relations & strategic communications at Arizona State University.