A Senate panel voted today to give additional cash to two of the state's three universities.
The $12 million for Arizona State University and $3.3 million for Northern Arizona University would be on top of whatever cash lawmakers and the governor approve for the schools. Senator Steve Yarbrough said the move is designed to address the fact that, the way the budget has been set for years, has resulted in the University of Arizona getting more state cash per student than the other two schools.
"In the last decade," said Yarbrough, "both ASU and NAU have experienced explosive enrollment growth for which state monies were not increased significantly. Consequently, funding per student became even more unequal compared to the U of A which did not experience the same rate of growth."
ASU President Michael Crow said equalizing base funding will free up the schools to concentrate more on performance and even promote competition among the three schools. The U of A is not opposing the plan. But Sen. Rick Murphy was one of two members of the Senate Finance Committee who said the state cannot afford the extra cash.
"Parity is important," saidi Murphy. "But the right way to do it is to reallocate the dollars that we're spending now, not allocate new dollars that really I don't think that we have. So I'm a little bit concerned with the method, not the goal."
The measure still needs to be approved by both the full Senate and House.