NAU plays key role in system-wide reform to serve more Arizona students

Northern Arizona University’s innovative portfolio of outside-the-box pathways to a college degree is garnering attention throughout the state for providing options that make earning a higher education more accessible and affordable.

The Lumina Foundation Focus
The Lumina Foundation featured NAU prominently in its summer edition of ‘Focus’ magazine, devoted to system-wide changes in Arizona higher education.

With tuition at NAU-Yavapai as much as 60 percent lower than the cost of a residential education at one of Arizona’s three research universities, the campus is being touted as the first tangible response to the Arizona Board of Regents’ call to revise the current university system architecture and offer students lower-cost options to obtaining baccalaureate degrees.In one of NAU’s most pioneering initiatives to date, NAU-Yavapai welcomed its first group of students to its Prescott Valley campus last week, and the Prescott Daily Courier was on-hand to greet the first freshman class of 15 students who are pursuing one of three select bachelor’s degree programs available fully on-site at the new campus.

“I definitely think the lower tuition is going to stand out as we continue to tell our story,” said NAU President John Haeger. He explained the tuition savings comes from offering limited degree options and utilizing existing resources through NAU’s Flagstaff campus. And because the campus does not have a research-intensive focus nor a residential component, students are not charged for extras like meal-plans, lab fees and housing.

“These savings get passed on directly to the students, who also benefit from tuition savings found in year-round instruction, which can help them get closer to their diploma more quickly,” he said.

Earlier this summer, the Lumina Foundation devoted an entire issue of its magazineFocus, to the system-wide changes in Arizona higher education, singling out NAU as perhaps “the best suited” of Arizona’s three state universities to show how forging alliances with community colleges throughout the state will lead to more students earning their degrees. It cites NAU’s partnership with Yavapai College, in particular, as the inspiration behind the board of regents’ vision for Arizona.

Susan Johnstad
Susan Johnstad, assistant vice president and campus executive officer for NAU-Yavapai, has welcomed the first freshman class of 15 students, who are pursuing one of three select bachelor’s degree programs available fully on-site at the new campus. Photo by Amanda Voisard

“Students can progress at an accelerated rate,” saidSusan Johnstad, assistant vice president and campus executive officer. “Taking three classes per session could shave off one full year, allowing students to graduate in as little as three years with the same NAU diploma and the same number of credits required at the university’s Flagstaff campus.”NAU-Yavapai’s highly structured curriculum is based around 45 instructional weeks per year, and allows new students to enter the curriculum stream every five weeks.

On Tuesday, The Arizona Republic ran a front-page story on the innovative new cost-saving model at NAU-Yavapai, calling it “the state’s boldest move yet to confront the problems of rapidly rising tuition and a shortage of residents with bachelor’s degrees.”

Johnstad said NAU-Yavapai is giving students a very streamlined pathway to a degree while also helping meet the specific needs of a growing community. “We are offering bachelor’s degrees that bring students to workforce readiness,” she said. “It’s the right concept, the right place and the right time for it. And people are starting to take notice.”