The Arizona Republic today reports what we already know, Ariz. tops nation in college cuts, tuition hikes:
Arizona has put a tighter squeeze on university students than any other state in recent years, making the deepest cuts to higher-education spending coupled with the steepest tuition hikes since the Great Recession, according to a new national report.
And the state earned that distinction even before Gov. Doug Ducey and the Legislature this year cut $99 million from universities, $19 million from community colleges, and the Arizona Board of Regents responded with another round of tuition hikes.
According to the report released Tuesday night by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Years of Cuts Threaten to Put College Out of Reach for More Students, Arizona is spending 47 percent less this year per college student than it did in 2008, adjusted for inflation. That’s a larger percentage cut than any other state, equating to $3,053 less annually per student.
Louisiana is next, spending 42 percent less. The national average was a 20 percent cut.
“For the state of Arizona, cuts to higher education have been quite severe, increasing costs for students and jeopardizing access and affordability,” said study co-author Michael Mitchell.
In response to the cuts, universities and community colleges have raised tuition and fees. According to the report, Arizona has seen the greatest tuition increases, rising 83.6 percent, or $4,734 per student, after adjusting for inflation, from 2008 to 2015.
The average tuition at Arizona’s three four-year universities is now $10,398 a year.
Nationally, tuition has risen 29 percent over that same time period, by $2,068. The national average for tuition at public universities is $9,139.
Mitchell said the “vast majority of states” have begun reinvesting in higher education. Former Gov. Jan Brewer and the Legislature last year did boost funding for higher education by 3.7 percent, or $123 per student, for the current fiscal year.
But after this year’s cuts to the universities for next fiscal year, the regents responded with tuition hikes for new students at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, and a one-time $320 surcharge for Arizona State University students.
“Arizona would be part of a very small group of states continuing to make cuts,” Mitchell said. “That will make them even more of an outlier (next year).”
Mitchell warned that rising tuition costs are putting college out of reach for more Arizonans and are putting those who attend deeper in debt, which he said will hurt Arizona’s still-struggling economy.
Which brings me back to the points I made earlier this year in Tea-Publicans want to defund public education in violation of the Arizona Constitution:
What our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature is doing is completely unconstitutional and a violation of their oath of office. Because the Arizona Courts have let them get away with it in the past, they are counting on this again.
Our lawless Tea-Publican Arizona legislature routinely violates two provisions of the Arizona Constitution out of ideological opposition to government, public education, and taxes:
Article XI, Section 6: The university and all other state educational institutions shall be open to students of both sexes, and the instruction furnished shall be as nearly free as possible. The legislature shall provide for a system of common schools by which a free school shall be established and maintained in every school district for at least six months in each year, which school shall be open to all pupils between the ages of six and twenty-one years.
Article IX, Section 3: The legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient, with other sources of revenue, to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year. And for the purpose of paying the state debt, if there be any, the legislature shall provide for levying an annual tax sufficient to pay the annual interest and the principal of such debt within twenty-five years from the final passage of the law creating the debt.
Our lawless Arizona legislature has for years been in violation of the Arizona Constitution because: (1) it is failing to provide for the cost of public education, and (2) it refuses to raise taxes sufficient “to defray the necessary ordinary expenses of the state for each fiscal year.”
Worse yet, Tea-Publicans have been unlawfully engaged in the theft of local school district funds for which the Superior Court has already entered a judgment ordering our lawless legislature to pay restitution in this fiscal year, and may order restitution for the previous five years of their theft. But that’s not the full extent. Our lawless Arizona legislature faces another lawsuit for its failure to fund public education:
[A]n earlier case in which our lawless Arizona legislature shortchanged our public schools, in which the Arizona Supreme Court held that the statutory financing scheme for public education violated the Arizona Constitution, Article XI, § 1, Roosevelt Elem. School Dist. No. 66 v. Bishop (No. CV-93-0168 1994), is now the basis for yet another lawsuit against our lawless Arizona legislature.
The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Lawsuit will seek funding for school maintenance:
A public interest advocacy group is planning a lawsuit alleging that the state has unconstitutionally underfunded building maintenance and soft capital for school districts, which could force the state restore hundreds of millions of dollars of budget cuts made in recent years.
As I said [before], these guys are not serious about good government, compliance with the law, and serving the best interests of the public. They are all derelict in their constitutional duty, and are guilty of legislative malpractice, if not misfeasance in office.
What they are doing to the children of Arizona ought to be considered a crime.
Now I know what you are thinking, a class-action lawsuit by the taxpayers of Arizona against our Tea-Publican legislators for misfeasance in office has a certain appeal to it, given that the law and the evidence are clear and unambiguous.
But the courts would dismiss such a claim on the grounds that it is a political question outside the jurisdiction of the court under separation of powers. If you want to hold Tea-Publican legislators accountable for their unlawful actions, you have to vote them out of office. So why don’t you?
2014 voter turnout was only 47.52 percent, the lowest turnout since the anomaly year 0f 1998 with 45.82 percent voter turnout, and 1942 during World War II before that.
A lot of attention has been given to the Public Policy Polling survey this week that shows only 27% of voters approve of the job that Gov. Doug Ducey is doing to 44% who disapprove.
Voters in the state are very unhappy about budget cuts that have recently been made to education in the state at all levels. 63% say they disapprove of the cuts to only 24% who are in support of them. Voters generally think the current amount of funding for both K/12 and higher education in the state is inadequate. 64% think there is not enough K/12 funding to just 10% who think there’s too much, and 51% think there is not enough higher education funding to only 22% who think there’s too much. 52% of voters say they’d support a one cent increase in the sales tax to help restore lost education funding with only 39% opposed.
So how did we wind up with a government with which we so vehemently disagree? I would point to the obvious, that the people who answer pollsters’ questions are not the same universe of people who actually turn out to vote. Election results are the only poll numbers that matter. As I’ve said before, Arizonans get the government they DON’T vote for.
Arizonans need to organize, mobilize and actually turn out to vote for a change.