University budgets, state budget request including supplemental funds due to pandemic approved during special board meeting
September 11, 2020
Phoenix, Ariz. – Following are news briefs from the Arizona Board of Regents special board meeting on Sept. 10. Full board materials are available here.
Approved Annual Budgets for Universities Reflect Challenges Brought About by COVID-19
The Arizona Board of Regents today approved fiscal year 2021 budgets for the universities and board office, which reflect the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, including enrollment, revenue and increased cost issues.
The fiscal year 2021 annual budgets for the universities and board office total $5.6 billion. The combination of state general fund and net tuition and fee revenues make up approximately 57 percent of revenues available to fund the budget. State general fund appropriations represent 14 percent of revenue.
Fiscal year 2021 state funds are $32.7 million less than the previous year, while estimated revenue from tuition and fees during fiscal year 2021 is down approximately $71 million.
“It is imperative to preserve the fiscal integrity of these institutions during the pandemic. Our universities play a critical role for Arizonans in the fight against COVID-19, and continue to serve as an essential economic engine for our state,” said ABOR Chair Larry E. Penley.
While public universities across the nation struggle with enrollment declines because of COVID-19, Arizona State University kicked off the fall semester with more than 127,500 new and returning students, a 7.6 percent increase over fall 2019, a point several regents applauded.
“I want to laud President Crow and his team on being able to move ahead so successfully both in the summer with record enrollment and with the numbers that you have achieved for this fall, in the face of the pandemic and its enormous risks and uncertainty. This is a very positive outcome,” Chair Penley said.
Universities are incurring increased costs during the pandemic through expenses such as online learning technologies and COVID-19 testing. Meanwhile, revenue is down in many areas, including athletics and housing. Enrollment is also down overall at NAU and UArizona, and each university has experienced reduced enrollment of international students this year. Both NAU and UArizona also expect increases in online enrollment but NAU expects a 3.8 percent decrease and UArizona expects enrollment to be basically unchanged from last year. For all three universities, international student enrollment is estimated to decrease by more than 3,100 students or about 21 percent.
State Budget Request Advances Arizona’s Workforce, Includes Supplemental Funding to Address Shortfalls Brought About by COVID-19
Anticipating a return to economic momentum in Arizona similar to before the pandemic, the board approved a state budget request for $160 million for fiscal year 2022 to strengthen Arizona and its workforce in the New Economy.
“Our economy will need more highly-skilled workers, especially as we see fewer jobs in retail and related sectors,” said Chair Penley. “The pandemic has changed our focus to public health, and rightly so. It is in the best interest of Arizona to invest in the demands and opportunities of the New Economy, and that means expanding access to a quality higher education to more of our citizens.”
Funds from the $160 million request would be dedicated to workforce development ($100 million); distributed learning centers ($10 million); and student financial aid ($50 million).
“It’s important to expand the ability of the universities to provide the state with more qualified workers for the New Economy while bringing higher education to additional communities in Arizona and enabling students to learn where they live,” said ABOR Executive Director John Arnold. “Increased financial aid will help more Arizonans earn a degree. They’ll benefit from the lasting benefits of higher education, including better wages and economic opportunity.”
The board’s budget request approval also includes a fiscal year 2021 supplemental request for $35 million to permanently restore funding that was cut as part of the state’s fiscal year 2021 “skinny budget,”
In addition, Chair Penley directed Executive Director Arnold to meet with university presidents to determine an appropriate amount to include in the fiscal year 2021 supplemental for state funding to address shortfalls stemming from the fiscal challenges during the pandemic. The board office will submit the budget request to the state within the next week.
In responding to COVID-19, Arizona’s public universities have devoted substantial resources to aid the state through research, testing, community service and more. Examples include:
- ASU researchers developed the state’s first saliva-based test in an effort to make COVID-19 diagnostic testing easier and more readily available. With testing sites across the state, ASU is partnering with the Arizona Department of Health Services.
- NAU’s Pathogen and Microbiome Institute launched a new COVID-19 Testing Service Center to use the institute’s facilities to test and evaluate the effectiveness of proposed vaccines and treatments for the coronavirus.
- UArizona developed its own antibody test and partnered with the state as part of an initiative to test 250,000 first responders and health care workers throughout Arizona.
Board Ratifies Prior Authorization of Litigation Against Facebook by ASU
Pursuant to ABOR policy, the board ratified prior authorization to initiate litigation against John Doe, aka “asu_covid.parties,” and Facebook, Inc., for federal trademark infringement, false designation of origin and false advertising after the account used the ASU trademark to promote events related to the pandemic.
ASU requested Instagram remove or alter the account, but Instagram refused despite the fact the infringement was contrary to its own terms, policies and community guidelines. Because of serious public health issues involved, ASU filed litigation and received approval to initiate litigation from board counsel in consultation with the board chair. Board policy provides that the approval is subject to ratification by the board at its next meeting.
After ASU filed its litigation, Facebook removed the “asu_covid.parties” account and similar accounts.
Board Chair Penley previously stated, “Social media accounts that promote unsafe public health behaviors are detrimental to the work we must do together to stay safe and healthy. Facebook and Instagram have guidelines to protect people from harmful content and that which threatens the safety of others. The board will not hesitate to pursue legal avenues against other social media accounts that violate laws designed to protect the universities’ brands and the public health safety measures in place at our universities.”
Arizona Teachers Academy Scholarship Allocations Approved by Board
The board approved the allocation of scholarships for the Arizona Teachers Academy stemming from a $6 million grant from Governor Ducey’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) fund for additional scholarships. The Arizona Teachers Academy offers tuition coverage for students who agree to teach in an Arizona school after graduation.
Allocation of scholarship funds is based on preliminary enrollment and waitlist numbers. The GEER grant will create approximately 1,000 scholarships.
“These scholarship funds will encourage more students to enroll in the Arizona Teachers Academy and help ensure Arizona’s classrooms of tomorrow are staffed with excellent teachers. The continued growth of this program is great news for Arizona schools,” said Regent Fred DuVal, who first envisioned the Academy.
The Arizona Teachers Academy program is available at ASU, NAU and UArizona, as well as Scottsdale, Rio Salado and Pima community colleges.