This year’s legislative session offers new hope to Arizona as Governor Ducey brings education to the forefront as a budgetary priority. As the Arizona economy continues to improve, modest reinvestments in Arizona’s public K-12 education and universities is a positive step forward.
While we are optimistic about the renewed interest in funding education, it is also important to note that NAU faces these discussions from a budget position further behind than we anticipated last year. During the FY16 budget discussions, Arizona universities cooperatively agreed to balance our budgets with $75 million less from the state than the prior year. When that amount increased to $99 million, NAU had to consider the long-term implications of these cuts and how we would ensure the viability of the university.
We understand the difficult budget decisions before the state of Arizona as revenues begin to improve. And we continue to implement efficiency measures to balance the university budget following last year’s $17 million reduction in state investment. At the same time, NAU is also facing aggressive enrollment goals established by the Arizona Board of Regents, which include educating an additional 1,317 students this year alone. The Board has established short- and long-term enrollment goals for all three public universities in order to meet the demand for a highly skilled workforce to advance Arizona’s total economic outlook.
A renewed emphasis and investment in education benefits all of us. NAU’s economic impact is certainly evident in Northern Arizona and throughout the state as last reported in March 2015 at almost $2 billion annually. We are proud of the positive economic impact and the return on the state’s investment of $16.72 generated for every $1 the state invests.
To be sure, every dollar we receive from the state helps us keep costs down for our students and their families. Investing in education also brings new opportunities to expand educational access, broaden personal horizons, prepare the next generation of Arizona’s workforce and bolster our public universities as economic drivers.
We will continue our diligence in facing our funding challenges and are grateful to our many partners who stand with us in our commitment to advance education and opportunity in the state. FBN
By Rita Cheng