Higher education benefit from state budget funding

Last month, Governor Ducey approved the state budget for fiscal year 2020, which included an increased allocation in funds for the three main state universities (University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University) and certain community colleges, including Pima Community College.

The allocation of funds for the universities increased from $8 million in 2019 to $35 million this year. Specifically, the University of Arizona will obtain $9.4 million for operating expenses and $8 million for the continued expansion of its Phoenix College of Medicine.

“Since the great recession, there have been efforts to recoup budget cuts to the state’s three public universities. The $35 million passed by the legislature and signed by the governor is the latest installment to make up for some of those cuts, and we appreciate their support,” UA Vice President of Government Relations Steve Voeller said. “The $8 million appropriation to UA Health Sciences helps address a major problem in Arizona—a shortage of physicians. We are pleased to work with the state to solve state problems, so we were happy to work with lawmakers and the governor’s office to address this issue.”

Voeller notes that the College of Medicine’s Phoenix campus currently has 80 students per class but has an overall capacity of 120. An increase in funds will help them accommodate more students, and in turn, the college will be able to supply the state with more doctors.

“A portion of the $8 million will help expand our Phoenix campus so we can produce more doctors,” Voeller continues. “We will also create a scholarship program for medical students who, once they graduate, agree to practice in underserved areas around the state — because those areas, whether rural or urban, are facing an even more severe shortage than the general population.”

Governor Ducey also awarded Pima Community College with a one-time, $15 million budget allocation for the school’s Aviation Technology Center. The center is widely considered to be one of the top training programs in the nation for aircraft maintenance and repair, and these additional funds will allow the school to almost double their student capacity.

“We currently have about 125 students, and this would allow us to build an enlarged facility that would allow us to serve about 250 a year,” said Pima Community College executive director Libby Howell. “Our program is a rigorous one; the students have about 2,000 hours of training, they go through over 100 exams, and they are required to complete over 300 hands-on projects. The project offers an Associate’s degree of applied science in aviation technology and accompanying certificates for direct employment in the core areas of airframe and power plants, structure repair, and avionics.”

Aviation mechanics and maintenance is one of the hottest industries in Arizona. In fact, the industry predicts that 750,000 new airline maintenance technicians will be needed over the next two decades, according to Howell. And with roughly 30 percent of the aviation technician population stemming from the baby boomer population, there will be many job vacancies in the near future. This presents an exciting opportunity for current and future students of the program.

The Arizona Sun Corridor conducted a study to evaluate the projected economic impact of the program, and it predicted a $225 million annual impact. This stems from new job creations, direct payroll, new property tax revenue, and additional sales tax revenue.

“The budget reinforces the state’s commitment to higher education, K-12 and community colleges,” UA President Robert Robbins said in a statement. “I am grateful for the hard work by the governor and all lawmakers and their staffs.”

Ben Norman

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