Arizona lawmakers confident in Robbins' leadership during UArizona financial challenges

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Chris Richards/University Communications

A bipartisan group of lawmakers from across Arizona lent their support to University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins as he leads the institution through its financial challenges.

Speaking at the Arizona State Capitol on Thursday, state senators wanted to "set the record straight" and ensure UArizona is recognized for corrective actions taken thus far, said Sen. Brian Fernandez, D-Yuma.

"I wanted to ensure that the university was being recognized for all they're doing, and all that they are planning to do when it comes to turning these fiscal issues around," said Fernandez, who called the bipartisan news conference. "Many universities throughout the country are dealing with fiscal issues post-pandemic, as well as inflation. I think President Robbins will lead the university in the right direction, and I am excited to work with him in the coming months."

The university launched a financial action plan in late January to address and eliminate a structural deficit while ensuring the ongoing success of its teaching, research and outreach mission.

Also on Thursday, Robbins, alongside John Arnold, executive director of the Arizona Board of Regents and the university's interim Chief Financial Officer, discussed the financial action plan during the board's meeting in Tempe.

During the meeting, the regents expedited new business and fiscal policies for all three state universities, saying they wanted to see changes in place by April. Those policies include centralizing financial planning and budgeting processes as well as centralizing the management and control of IT services; implementing budgetary controls to prevent units, programs and colleges from overspending; and increasing transparency in budget reporting and communications.

Lawmakers say Robbins and other executives are taking the right step forward.

"Every interaction I've had with President Robbins has been very straightforward, honest and positive about how to make the U of A better, and therefore make Arizona better," said Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, who chairs the Senate's Education Committee. "We want to be assured that changes will be put in place to make sure that this doesn't happen again, and I have confidence Robbins will lead the institution to do just that."

Also speaking at the news conference was Sen. David Gowan. Other attendees were Sen. Lela Alston, Sen. Shawnna Bolick, and Sen. Anna Hernandez.