The state in December delayed a $75 million payment to the university system as a way to free up cash flow because of the Arizona financial crisis.
University officials say that while they are using money from other funds to tide them over this month, any more delays could result in cash-flow problems.
The Arizona Board of Regents plans to deliver a letter Friday to Gov. Jan Brewer, objecting to using this tactic again. "The universities are not in a position to manage without these funds for a prolonged period," said Regents President Ernest Calderon.
If the state continues to delay payments, it could lower the bond ratings for Arizona State, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, making it more expensive for them to finance construction projects.
This month, Moody's Investors Service, a bond-rating agency, noted that the universities' ratings could face pressure this year, particularly if state-funding delays extended well into the spring and operating-cash balances tightened.
The universities are required by law to turn their tuition revenues over to the state every month, which the state later gives back to them along with the monthly state payment.
ASU President Michael Crow said he's worried that the state will keep the university's $120 million tuition payment, which is due Jan. 16, to shore up the state budget.
The regents on Thursday discussed whether they could change the word "tuition" to "fees" because, under the law, universities don't have to turn over fees to the state.
The regents are looking into whether this would be legal, but some are worried that doing so would set up a confrontation with the Legislature.
Paul Senseman, spokesman for the governor, said it's possible the universities could receive a "double payment" later this month to cover December and January payments, depending on the state's cash-flow needs.
It's also possible the governor may have to delay payments if a budget solution isn't reached with the state Legislature. The state still needs to close a $1.4 billion deficit for the fiscal year that ends June 30.