"Shelton warns of tough times, but stays optimistic"
In response to widespread concern over the state's ongoing budget crunch, President Robert Shelton encouraged all university employees to ""begin this year on a positive note.""
In a series of personal e-mails sent earlier to the university-wide appointed and student employee listservs, Shelton took a sobering, but optimistic, look at the budget problems facing the university and his plans to address them.
The president laid out a broad take on the budget situation, citing a number of examples ranging from the expected $100 million cut from state university funding on the down side, to transformation programs that introduce ‘creative new approaches' to the educational process on the up.
Continued budget cuts in certain areas are inevitable, as higher education funding from the state has declined dramatically over the past two decades, he said.
""At the same time we have seen the total state budget, as a result of both tax cuts and the extraordinary downturn in the economy, shrink dramatically,"" Shelton said. ""So not only has higher education's portion of the pie been reduced, but the pie itself, the state budget, has grown smaller in recent years.""
Getting out of the budget hole in which Arizona's universities currently find themselves has proven to be Shelton's biggest challenge heading into this school year. Climbing out of that hole will prove to be a lengthy journey, he warned.
""We do not believe that there is any realistic expectation of this situation improving any time soon,"" Shelton said, ""which means we must place greater emphasis on the capacity of colleges to generate private support as well as increasing tuition revenues.""
Shelton reiterated that savings will not come in the form of ""across the board reductions.""
The message comes at a time when Arizona remains without an approved state budget. Without a state budget, the UA will be unable to finalize its own budget. Without a stable state budget, the university will be largely dependant on federal stimulus funding. Such funding is set to expire by 2011.
Nevertheless, Shelton thanked ""literally everyone"" for their determination to ""make the university better.""