State of University of Arizona lists priorities in face of budget issues

President Robbins says teaching and research are its core mission but protestors worry how it will find more cash
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 8:56 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - Students protested the University of Arizona’s financial straits Thursday as its president showed regents what the institution is doing right. U of A President Robert C. Robbins gave his State of the University to the Arizona Board of Regents on the same day students protested his decision-making. The tough road ahead of the university is a reality, but protestors said that students, faculty and staff shouldn’t carry the burden.

“You know in the state constitution, you are guaranteed to as nearly free as possible and it’s definitely not even close,” said Miranda Lopez, southern Arizona regional director for the Arizona Students Association.

“It’s not the time for me to go through and describe all the issues all around our financial challenges,” Dr. Robert C. Robbins told the Arizona Board of Regents in his State of the University presentation Thursday.

In his State of the University presentation, he said that he had planned on giving even in the light of recent events, Dr. Robbins underscored return on investment from research programs, increased engagement with Hispanic and Native American students, and attracting premier candidates for colleges.

“We need to focus on our core mission, which is teaching and research,” Robbins told the regents.

“And why it is that many of these investments are ROIs that are not immediate, this is extremely helpful for us to understand that,” commented ABOR Chair Fred DuVal to Robbins in the meeting after his presentation.

“Reinvigorating the land grant focus of this university with its enormous responsibility to the non-urban and rural parts of this state,” Regent Larry Edward Penley added about Robbins’s work for the university.

But the clock is ticking on a mid-December deadline for a pencil-sharpening plan to increase the university’s cash reserves from the current three months to about four. Thursday’s protest delivered the message that students and faculty should be spared.

“The cuts, or whatever plan that they have needs to put that burden on someone else that’s not the students,” Lopez said.

During his presentation, President Robbins said that he did not want to make cuts to need-based scholarships. Several times, he asked why he spent reserve money on research programs, which added to the return on investment that Chair Duval said he needed to see. Robbins showed the philanthropic Fuel Wonder campaign has raised more than $2 billion in just a few weeks and that its goal is at least $3 billion.

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