President Rita Cheng’s statement on the Governor’s budget proposal

Northern Arizona University sees hope in the budget proposed by Governor Ducey today. As the Arizona economy begins to improve, modest reinvestment in Arizona’s universities is a step forward. Additionally, moving to a funding model based on Arizona resident students is very much in line with NAU’s mission and focus on serving Arizonans complemented with a robust out-of-state and international student population. Approximately 70 percent of NAU’s students are Arizona residents.

It is important to note that NAU is, however, starting this discussion from a budget further behind than we anticipated last year. During discussions of the FY16 budget, Arizona’s universities cooperatively agreed to balance our budgets with $75 million less from the state than the prior year. When that amount increased to a $99 million cut to the university system, NAU had to consider paths that will affect our long term competitiveness. The reinvestment proposed today of $8 million to the Arizona university system allocates $1.5 million of the $4 million NAU needs to balance our budget in FY17 without beginning to address student enrollment growth, facility conditions or program and service expansion.

NAU understands the difficult budget decisions before the state of Arizona as revenues begin to improve and investment desires are extensive. Here at NAU we continue to work on balancing the university budget following last year’s $17 million reduction in state investment while educating an additional 1,316 students. The challenges are great for us all!

We appreciate the Governor’s recognition of Arizona’s universities in the State of the State address, his strong commitment to improving the Arizona economy and his incorporation of a new university funding model in his budget recommendation released today. Reinvesting in Arizona’s universities with an emphasis on Arizona resident students is a positive step forward. NAU’s economic impact is certainly evident in northern Arizona and throughout the state as last reported in March 2015 at almost $2 billion annually. Along with the many local, regional and statewide private businesses that support and partner with NAU, we are proud of this positive economic impact and the return on the state’s investment of $16.72 generated for every $1 the state invests in NAU.

We will continue our process of continuous improvement through implementation of efficiency measures and development of external partners to achieve our goals and provide a quality education for our students. We will continue to be challenged at this state funding level to provide lower cost tuition options throughout Arizona and to retain the guaranteed tuition Pledge Program for our students on the NAU Flagstaff campus. This is the beginning of a conversation and we appreciate the Governor’s recognition that the Arizona universities contribute to the overall health of Arizona’s economy and quality of life.