The board that oversees Arizona’s three public universities wants 14.6 percent more money from state taxpayers next school year, and its leader make no apologies for the double-digit increase.
The Arizona Board of Regents gave unanimous approval Thursday to an $843 million budget request for the 2015 school year, which starts next summer.
It includes $34.8 million more for the University of Arizona and millions more in financial aid for students statewide.
“It’s a lot of money, but we need this money,” Rick Myers of Tucson, chairman of the regents, said of the extra $107.6 million the university system is seeking.
The proposed increase is a pittance considering massive cuts the state made to university funding during the recent economic downturn, Myers said.
“We are still only getting back a small piece of what we lost over the last five years while at the same time we were serving 30,000 additional students,” he said.
In the long term, the extra funding will boost Arizona’s economy by producing more university graduates with higher paychecks, he said.
The proposal will be forwarded to the Legislature for consideration. Typically, the universities don’t get all the money they ask for, but the regents are hopeful this time because the state’s economy appears to be recovering.
The UA would get $314 million from the state under the proposal, 12.5 percent more than this year.
The figure includes $4.2 million for a new veterinary medicine program to ease a shortage of large-animal vets in cattle country, and $3.8 million to improve cooperative extension services for both farmers and urban gardeners.
The UA also would receive a $15 million infusion to shore up offerings in biotechnology, space sciences, optics and aerospace, programs seen as critical to quality-job creation.
Arizona State University in Tempe, the state’s largest school, would receive $373 million, while Northern Arizona University, the smallest, would get $125 million.
The regents also are asking the Legislature to spend $12.6 million more on financial aid to help needy students.