The Republic recently editorialized in favor of making university budgets a sacred cow during the current budget crisis. I wrote an opinion piece in response making the case that the academic records of our universities are in dire need of improvement, and that universities can much more easily make up for reductions than other areas of government (i.e. raising tuition).
Subsequently, two columns have appeared in retort. Neither is persuasive.
The first response, from Tom Rex of Arizona State University, attempts to make the argument that the Arizona state government does not fund research outside of some relatively small amounts. Rex goes on to get his claim about total university funding demonstrably wrong (see Total Appropriations) in a column amusingly titled "Let's base decisions to cut university spending on facts."
Yes, let us do just that...
A few days later, the President of the University of Arizona took a turn with a different take:
The vast majority of the $530 million in funding for research last year at UA came from outside Arizona (primarily from the federal government).
University advocates need to coordinate their stories. The Republic claims cuts will devastate university research, Rex claims state funding doesn't have much to do with research, and the University Arizona comes somewhere ambiguously in the middle.
As it happens, the Republic is right. The National Science Foundation figures demonstrate that the University of Arizona utilized $1.1 billion in institutional funds to support research between 2003 and 2006 alone. Arizona's other universities are heavily subsidizing research as well.
Rex made a weak attempt to blame UA and ASU's terrible graduation rates on the K-12 system. Of course, no one forces the universities to have admission standards which "Saturday Night Live" describes as "Slightly more selective than the Burger King Kids Club."
Universities can make up for funding reductions by increasing user fees. State prisons can only release convicted criminals. Given that degree holders are far and away the primary beneficiaries of their educations; this is a really simple choice to make.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.
Goldwater Institute: Please ignore the academic catastrophe behind the curtain
Arizona Republic: University research worthy, not immune to cuts
Arizona Republic: Investment in state's universities is investment in future
Arizona Republic: Tom Rex: Let's base decisions to cut university spending on facts