Accessibility, affordability, accountability highlight ABOR discussions

Discussion of a revised Arizona University System architecture to offer lower-cost options for baccalaureate degrees dominated much of the Arizona Board of Regents’ meeting June 18 and 19 on campus.

Details of the draft plan presented by the three university presidents to double baccalaureate production by 2020 to help Arizona attain national economic competitiveness is available here.

Regent Ernest Calderón, who becomes president of the board on July 1, cited the need to “create immediate steps of affordability and accessibility.” During a presentation to the board, Calderón also outlined several other challenges and opportunities for the university system in the coming year, including:

  • assessing space utilization at the universities to ensure the “use of limited space as efficiently and effectively as possible”
  • establishing an intercollegiate athletics ad hoc committee to review various aspects of athletics programs, including facilities, budgets and issues related to student-athletes and Title IX
  • exploring opportunities for centralization in such areas as capital planning and audit and legal services
  • investigating a student record system to track the entire K-20 pipeline of students
  • making Arizona’s universities the “providers of choice” for online education of military veterans
  • establishing additional competency exams for students to earn university credits
  • ensuring both productivity and quality in academic programs, including an inventory of duplicative programs within the universities
  • assessing contractual agreements
  • possibly moving the tuition-setting board vote from the fall to March

Calderón also cited the need for greater public outreach by the regents and through the Solutions through Higher Education initiative, a public education effort aimed at raising awareness of the critical role higher education plays in ensuring economic prosperity.

A similar theme of greater public outreach arose during university presentations on how they measure the performance of their research programs. See NAU’s report here.

“The research component of our mission is under siege,” said Regent Anne Mariucci. She pointed to the “ill-conceived and short-sighted suggestion of pundits that research isn’t necessary.”

Regent Fred DuVal acknowledged a fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers to demonstrate the return on investment from research.

In other board action, the regents also approved the following:

  • updating the dollar threshold where a class fee or deposit needs ABOR approval from $50 to $100
  • project implementation for NAU’s health and wellness center, which is largely funded by student fees; construction is expected to begin in September
  • project implementation and approval for extending steam, chilled water, electrical utilities and telecommunications on the northeast end of campus; the project is linked with the health and wellness center
  • a one-year contract extension for head football coach Jerome Souers