Statement from ABOR Chair Larry E. Penley on governor’s executive budget
January 15, 2021
“While hard times this past year called for difficult decisions, Gov. Ducey was appropriately prudent with state coffers as Arizona confronted twin crises in the form of a pandemic and recession. Now, with our economic recovery underway and state finances strong, Arizona needs and deserves a budget plan that not only meets this unparalleled moment in time but also makes the necessary investment in Arizona’s future.
“The board appreciates the allocation of $35 million to support the board’s New Economy Initiative. This initial investment will support the board’s priorities to boost postsecondary attainment and increase the number of graduates in high-demand industries. Arizona’s competitiveness and 21st century jobs in the New Economy depend on higher education and a state’s commitment to it.
“While this investment is vital to our universities, we remain concerned over the long-term effects the pandemic has caused on the enrollment of first-time, full-time students – which is down by more than 9 percent from last year. Most or all of those students may now see their college aspirations delayed or deferred entirely. That harms Arizona.
“A decline in higher education enrollment is a troubling national trend and risk of inaction is great. Negative consequences for our entire state are ahead if we do not invest in our public universities. With additional and sufficient state support, our public universities can greatly boost access and the number of Arizona resident students who earn a degree, while growing research and development for an economy increasingly built on knowledge and discovery.
“I appreciate Gov. Ducey’s understanding of the value of higher education. He has consistently supported the university led Arizona Teachers Academy to train and place our state’s next generation of classroom teachers, and he directed a significant portion of federal relief to help universities recover from pandemic-related losses. And I deeply appreciate his priorities to support K-12 and close alarming achievement gaps. But there is also an urgent need to do more if our state is to meet the growing demands of the New Economy.
“In the coming months, we look forward to working with Gov. Ducey and legislators to ensure Arizona rebuilds stronger, more resilient and better able to compete on a global stage.”