The Arizona Board of Regents has given Northern Arizona University the go-ahead to pilot a joint admission program with Coconino Community College this fall that could serve as a model for increasing access to higher education for Arizonans.
NAU President John Haeger and CCC President Leah Bornstein presented a plan for seamless joint admission to both institutions at the ABOR meeting on Friday at NAU’s High Country Conference Center. Their proposal followed an ABOR discussion about strategic planning and the need for Arizona to double the number of baccalaureate degrees by 2020 to be nationally competitive.
“Most of our definitions about how to solve this problem relate to ‘institutions,'” Haeger said, citing discussions about implementing a state college system in Arizona or allowing community colleges to offer four-year degrees. “We need to focus on the student and create the aspiration to pursue a degree. There are not enough students in the pipeline (from K-12 to university).”
“Students need to think of themselves as capable (of earning a degree),” Bornstein said. The question, she noted, is, “How do we remove the barriers so learners can move through the system?”
The answer, according to Haeger and Bornstein, is to provide joint advising and planning of the student’s career path at the outset and to share support services.
Advisers would be trained by both the university and the community college. Students who are jointly admitted would be granted an NAU e-mail account and an NAU ID card with library privileges and access to events on campus. NAU and CCC will work together to promote the program to high school and nontraditional students.
Regent Fred DuVal endorsed the idea of moving beyond discussions of the jurisdictional provinces of universities and community colleges. “This shouldn’t be about managing borders but about managing doorways,” he said.
Haeger anticipates similar joint admissions programs with community colleges throughout the state that would increase geographic and financial access to four-year degree programs.
In a separate presentation to the regents, Provost Liz Grobsmith outlined NAU’s 2008-09 academic strategic plan, which includes three new degree programs as part of the university’s commitment to address workforce shortages in health care. These include a B.S. in biomedical science that starts in the fall and planning for a doctorate in occupational therapy and a master’s physicians’ assistant program that could be implemented in 2010.
Grobsmith also noted she would be in China this week to attend the graduation of the first cohort of Chinese students who participated in the 1+2+1 program with NAU.
During the board meeting on Thursday, Chris Bavasi of Flagstaff, who serves as co-chair of the statewide Solutions through Higher Education campaign, offered his perspective on the impact of NAU in the northern Arizona community.
In addition to serving as an economic driver, Bavasi also noted the “intellectual and cultural stock” of the university, the nursing workforce it helps supply, the availability of entertainment and intercollegiate and high school athletics in the Skydome, the high visibility of NAU’s Center for High Altitude Training, the university’s involvement with the Flagstaff Unified School District and local government, and the new High Country Conference Center, which celebrated its grand opening last Thursday.
“If not for NAU, we’d be a very small town at a crossroads,” Bavasi told the regents.