The Arizona Board of Regents approved a 3.6 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduates at Northern Arizona University for 2006-07. It is the lowest percentage increase in eight years at NAU.

The increase represents an additional $152 in tuition for the year and a $149 annual increase for resident undergraduates in NAU’s statewide programs.

NAU President John Haeger told the regents he decided to hold the tuition increase request to the cost of living because of more substantial tuition increases over the past few years.

“This cohort of students has seen the biggest increases in tuition,” Haeger said. Tuition has increased about 70 percent since 2002-03.

The president cited “energetic” discussions with NAU student leaders in arriving at his tuition recommendation. The president hosted five forums on tuition with students during the school year. Haeger also noted the link between tuition and anticipated funding from the Legislature.

“We’d have to raise tuition significantly next year if we don’t get sufficient state funding,” he cautioned. State appropriations for the universities have not been finalized.

While Haeger thanked the Legislature for its funding of salary increases for faculty and staff, he also acknowledged, “It will probably do no more than hold us even.” Haeger said other needs of the university include a total of $275 million in building renovations and providing a totally wireless campus.

The regents also set resident undergraduate tuition at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona. Tuition at ASU’s Tempe campus will increase 6.5 percent and will increase 3.5 percent at ASU Polytechnic and ASU West. Tuition at the UofA main campus will increase 4.6 percent.

The Board of Regents also voted to move up its tuition-setting process from spring to fall to provide students with earlier notification of tuition and financial aid.

Typically, the regents have set tuition and fees in March or April for the upcoming academic year. With this change, the regents will now decide tuition and fees for 2007-08 in fall 2006. University presidents will meet with student leadership between August and November, with a tuition hearing the week of November 13 and a vote on tuition and fees by ABOR at its Nov. 30-Dec. 1 meeting.

In other action, the regents granted project implementation approval to NAU for an applied research building on the campus of Arizona Western College in Yuma.

The approval allows NAU to move forward with AWC on design and construction planning.

On the drawing board is a $4 million, 10,000-square-foot building that will expand collaborative research and training opportunities in environmental disciplines. NAU hopes to begin construction in November 2006 and anticipates a completion date of December 2007.

“Our partnership with Arizona Western College serves as a national model of how universities and community colleges can and should work together to make higher education available to people where they live and work,” Haeger said. “The applied research building demonstrates what we can make happen when we share a common goal.”

Regent Ernest Caldéron added, “It’s a win-win for everyone, especially the taxpayers.”

NAU has had a physical presence on the AWC campus since 1996, and the partnership with AWC goes back to 1988.

The Board of Regents also engaged in a lively discussion during its meeting about a failed Senate bill that would have required the universities to provide alternatives for students who find courses, coursework or learning materials to be personally offensive.

In the end, the regents adopted a resolution that states its support of academic freedom and directs the university presidents to “continue the process of adopting policies that create methods to notify students at the beginning of courses of the course content, including materials to be covered.” The resolution notes that the process of adopting policies should include the input of campus constituencies, including the chief academic officers. The presidents are to report back to the board at its September meeting.