Arizona budget may affect STEM program

Arizona budget may affect STEM program

YUMA, Ariz.  – In a statement issued Tuesday, Arizona Western College announced its administration is recalibrating budget efforts after Friday’s late-night debate at the state capital and subsequent vote that passed a budget with deeper-than expected cuts to higher education and K-12 education in Arizona.

“We rely on the state for about 4 percent of our total budget, and at this point, we don’t think that is in jeopardy,” said Vice President of Finance and Administrative Services, Carole Coleman. “What is at risk is about $880,000 in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) funding from the state, and that could really hamstring some of our efforts. “

AWC said funding comes mostly from student tuition and property taxes in its two-county district (Yuma and La Paz). AWC said over the years state aid has dropped from a high of about 30 percent of the college budget to the recent 4 percent figure. State financial support for capital improvements was reduced to zero for five years, returned in 2013 at reduced levels, and last year was replaced by the STEM funding.

“What’s tough about this budget, and the cuts to universities, colleges, and K-12, is that the impact to economic development will be disastrous and will really hurt the state in years to come,” said AWC President Dr. Glenn Mayle. “I can appreciate wanting to live within our means – and building a reasonable, achievable budget is important. I think there’s a disconnect between how much higher education really costs the state, and how much the state gains – not only in higher wages, but in an increased population of taxpayers, and attracting business here because of an educated workforce.”

A recently-released economic impact study by Economic Modeling Specialists Intl (ESMI) demonstrates that for every $1 spent by taxpayers in Yuma and La Paz counties, there was $3.90 in added taxes and public sector savings for taxpayers, or an annual return on investment of 10.7%.

Similarly, for every $1 spent by students, they gained $9.60 in lifetime income; for every $1 spent by society, there was $12.20 in added state income and social savings.

“We’re in the middle of our normal priority-based budget process, working with all of our divisions and programs, knowing that we need to focus on enrollment and other avenues for resources, or we’ll be facing major expenditure cuts,” said Coleman.

Arizona Western College administration has already taken steps to reduce expenditures this semester in anticipation of reductions at the state level.

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