State university presidents lobby House for performance-based funding bill

Arizona State University President Michael Crow speaks to... on... about... (Sara Vermilyea/DD)
ASU President Michael Crow joined other public university presidents in support of a bill for performance-based funding. Crow said the state needs to bring education above the national average. (Sara Vermilyea/DD)

A House committee passed a bill on performance-based funding for universities Thursday after the three Arizona public university presidents met with state Legislature. The bill now moves to appropriations.

The meeting comes just days after Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address, where he proposed a budget plan to help close the state’s looming deficit. In his budget summary, he suggested 
reducing funding to Arizona universities by $75 million starting in 2016.

State Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, is the primary sponsor of HB 2364, which establishes a performance-funding model for the universities. The bill includes actions such as giving more weight to high-value degrees that are in short supply.

Each president gave a presentation to the Committee on Government and Higher Education on the innovations happening at their university and how they are using their funding from the state to further benefit their programs.

Before the meeting, ASU President Michael Crow said he and the other presidents wanted to show the committee why they should invest in their universities.

“They have to decide what’s important,” he said.

Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein emphasized the importance of working with the state to prepare for the future. She said the state should put the “students at the forefront,” become outcome-driven and be funded by what students are producing.

Crow emphasized inclusion versus exclusion and stressed innovation, along with serving the people. He also said investments should be made based off performance.

Crow said he conceptualized the importance of college relating to the importance of the economy, further pointing out that “the engine is not significant enough”; the state needs to find a way to bring education above the national average.

Along with Crow, University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart stressed that absolutely no tuition increases. Hart said the main incentive for students to attend UA is its four-year no-tuition-increase program.

Presidents Crow, Hart and Klein all also highlighted the importance of implementing a student-based financial-aid system, one that many states have already introduced into their universities.

Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng has only been with the school since August but said she was confident with what her school has to offer. She too highlighted the importance of each university making progress within the system.

Hart added that in regard to the state working with the university, “the benefits are huge if we’re willing to take that chance.”

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