Northern Arizona University is taking its acclaimed venture in Yuma to a new level after receiving unanimous approval from the Arizona Board of Regents to designate NAU-Yuma as a branch campus.

The designation, approved Thursday during a regents meeting in Flagstaff, will allow NAU to build programming and resources at its Arizona Western College site.

“This is an area where we need to provide much more accessible programming,” said NAU President John Haeger. He anticipates adding new programs and faculty to meet the needs of a growing Yuma community.

Haeger added that as a branch campus, NAU-Yuma could seek a federal designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution, which would qualify it for additional funding.

“NAU-Yuma is a significantly more independent campus,” Haeger said, “and we must develop programs that serve the students there.”

Regent Ernest Calderón cheered the new designation. “Bravo,” he said. “This is a wonderful step in the right direction. It will bring greater recognition to NAU-Yuma’s already excellent track record of educating first-generation college students.”

Both the University of Arizona and Arizona State University applauded the change.

“We already are a strong partner with NAU in Yuma, and we welcome this opportunity,” said UA President Robert Shelton.

The NAU-Yuma campus was established in 1988 with 509 students. Today’s enrollment is nearly 700. The NAU-Arizona Western affiliation has been cited among best practices for university and community college partnerships.