NAU-led Arizona Attainment Alliance announces universal admissions program aimed at dramatically increasing access to higher education

The Arizona Attainment Alliance (A++)—an innovative partnership between Northern Arizona University (NAU), the state’s 10 community college districts and the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA) that collectively serves more than 320,000 students—announced its first alliance-wide initiative, the Universal Admissions program, which will ensure seamless admissions for all students who attend A++ member institutions.

The Universal Admissions program is a first-of-its-kind collaborative effort between postsecondary institutions that will launch this fall. Under the new program, any student who does not immediately meet the requirements to be admitted to NAU will be seamlessly connected to a local community college district, with an assurance that they will be able to transfer into NAU without an additional application when they are ready.

“Too often, higher education excludes or denies individuals who have a desire to work hard and meet their full potential,” said José Luis Cruz Rivera, president of Northern Arizona University. “With the Universal Admissions program, A++ is removing barriers and creating more entry points for postsecondary attainment. We’re ensuring that the ways in which we meet talent with opportunity are available locally and affordably, and that they have a clear link to match students’ interests with the economic potential of our state.”

The alliance pointed to the pilot program between NAU and Coconino Community College as an early proof of the validity of the universal admissions concept. This pilot has resulted in nearly 700 students and counting interested in participating for the Fall 2023 semester. Expanding this initiative across the alliance for the Fall 2024 application cycle will create more locally available opportunities for students in every one of Arizona’s 15 counties.

“Through the Universal Admissions program, the Arizona Attainment Alliance is developing a results-driven plan to ensure all Arizonans have access to high-quality academic pathways,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority (ACA). “We look forward to working with NAU and A++ partners to strengthen the connections between postsecondary education and the imperative of growing our workforce.”

At the first full meeting of the alliance last week in Phoenix, keynote addresses by Watson and Cruz Rivera set the tone for the alliance’s work by outlining the critical workforce situation and the need to strengthen postsecondary attainment in order to deliver on the economic potential of the state. Both stressed that the unique nature of the alliance provides a nimble model that is flexible to student and regional needs, is closely aligned with the latest developments and opportunities in industry thanks to the ACA and collectively benefits all of Arizona.

Beyond the launch of the Universal Admissions program, A++ members engaged in detailed planning around attainment-focused priority areas, including:

  • Cross-institutional approaches to enrollment and degree completions that maximize access and attainment.
  • Strategies to strengthen the K-12 to higher education to career journey.
  • Development of seamless, career-driven academic pathways across all A++ institutions.
  • Design specifications for shared services and technologies, student success, career advisement, and transfer-pathway services.

NAU Vice President for Economic Mobility and Social Impact Jonathan Gagliardi, added, “The Arizona Attainment Alliance is one of the most unique and innovative partnerships of its kind in higher education nationally. We now have an ambitious roadmap for collaboration in place that will leverage each institution’s unique location and educational assets. Building on the launch of the Universal Admissions program, we continue to advance efforts across all member institutions that optimize the entire postsecondary ecosystem of the state for the mutual benefit of students, communities, and the workforce.”

A++ members will now turn to implementation plans across the identified workstreams to be deployed across the alliance this summer.

NAU Communications