Privatizing community college in Arizona

Last month I noted a wave of Republican-led proposals to seriously cut financing for public colleges and universities.  I suggested that these moves would force more queen sacrifices from a great deal of campuses. Arizona was part of that wave, with its governor Ducey seeking $75 million in reductions.  This week that state considered even further reductions:

The governor originally wanted to cut their budgets by $75 million, but the new deal would cut state appropriation by $104 million, or 14 percent of their state support.

And now the budget has this unusual goal: removing all state support for many community colleges.

the final deal would cut an additional $9 million, to eliminate all state funds. Small community college districts would continue to receive money, but the large districts that would now have no state funds include the mammoth Maricopa and Pima districts.

Late Friday night the Arizona legislature approved the plan, which included “cuts [of] nearly $100 million from state schools.” (More than the initial Ducey proposal, but not quite what was on the table last week) Therefore those community college systems will naturally have to boost tuition and/or cut programs.

Why did Arizona do this?  Here’s a useful sample of the privatizing argument:

Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for Governor Ducey, defended the cuts, telling The Arizona Republic that the budget plan “protects taxpayers.”

Added Scarpinato: “We can’t spend money we don’t have, and the governor is committed to protecting taxpayers by balancing the budget. This is a values-based budget that puts the state on a stable fiscal path.”

Nothing about improving education through removing state control, as Wisconsin’s governor suggested, or anything like that.  There is the interesting flag of “values” – for Arizona, does that mean a call for traditional moral values, a summons to frontier virtues, or fiscal rectitude, or something other?

This might not be a case of complete privatization, however, as many community colleges receive some funding from local (city or county) taxes.  I don’t know to what extend Maricopa and Pima do this.  If they do receive such support, this might be a case of localization, rather than privatization per se.  And if local funding exists, the colleges could lobby for an increase to make up for the state shortfall.  I don’t know the politics enough to determine if this is possible or doomed.

Stepping back a little, what does this new Arizona budgetary move mean for American higher education?  Is this the first sign of a national trend, or just an outlier?

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10 Responses to Privatizing community college in Arizona

  1. Jeff says:

    The Republican plan:
    1. Slash funding for services traditionally financed by government,
    2. Watch as quality of service goes down and cost of service goes up. Blame government.
    3. Point to deteriorated services as justification for privatization. Sell the right to provide service to corporate overloads, being sure to provide legal immunity to protect overlords.
    4. Rinse and repeat.

  2. VanessaVaile says:

    what states do you think will be next?

  3. CogDog says:

    The Maricopa system wont be too affected; when i worked there the state contribution to the budget was less than 10%, and the recent budget data puts the state’s input as only 1%

    And the system announced that there would be no tuition hikes given the state’s budget slashing

    The bulk of the budget is and has always been from property taxes, with the crazy growth of Phoenix from the 1970s this continues as a reliable source not calling for privatization. So many people who live in the area have benefitted from the system that there is usually strong support for when increases are made (well as of about the time I left in 2006). It makes some sense, a system that accepts all students across a wide cut of the socioeconomic sector (unlike ASU which is selective on enrollments) gains wide support by ongoing taxes over long periods of mortgage loans.

    The story I remember hearing was the realization by someone in the system quite some time ago that the construction of the Palo Verde Nuclear power plant in the far western part of the county, meant that it too could be assessed by the college district for taxes. I did not dig to see how much this currently is, but reports suggest that Palo Verde contribute $50 million per year to the county, the community colleges, and local schools.

    I am not sure how different the situation is for Pima (Tucson area) or the smaller community college districts.

    • Alan, many thanks for such an informative reply! I’m glad we can benefit from your years of experience with Maricopa. I’m also glad M. isn’t being hit as badly as I thought.

      What do you think are those “Other” funding sources, setting up 27% of the total?
      How much power do locals exert over MCC’s curriculum and teaching, given their financial role?

      • CogDog says:

        I can’t really speak to the budget details (plus the link for advanced budget details is broken). I know they get federal money for vocational programs. The publics input would be I guess through the elected governing board, though I doubt the get to the granular level of curriculum

      • I wonder.

        Wonder how that federal funding is doing.

        And if the locals are interested in more control, as Republics across the country seem to be exerting more this year.

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