NAU’s ‘college-going culture’ highlighted at regents’ meeting

Northern Arizona University’s distance learning opportunities were spotlighted during Thursday’s meeting of the Arizona Board of Regents at Arizona State University.

ABOR praises UA’s shooting response

Arizona Board of Regents chair Anne Mariucci began Thursday’s meeting commending the University of Arizona and President Robert Shelton for their response in the aftermath of the tragic shooting in Tucson in which six people were killed and 13 were injured, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“You were a beacon of light in something so tragic,” Mariucci said. “It was one of our proudest moments to be associated with your institution.”

“NAU is growing a college-going culture through seamless joint admissions throughout the state,” said Fred Hurst, NAU senior vice president for Extended Campuses. Hurst cited programs such as CCC2NAU that bring community college students into the university by offering intensive advising and access to support services.

Hurst’s presentation was part of a review on the university system’s strides toward accomplishing the board’s charge to identify efficiencies while increasing access and affordability for students seeking an undergraduate degree.

Board president Tom Anderes led the review and held up NAU-Yavapai as an example of offering paths to degrees away from research campuses.

“There are students who want the experience on a university campus,” Anderes said. “But the more low-tuition and high-quality options we can put out, the better. The universities will continue to build relationships with community colleges throughout the state.”

Northern Arizona University currently has 19 partnerships with Arizona’s community colleges and 34 community campuses, up from 22 in 2003.

NAU President John Haeger said partnerships such as NAU-Yavapai are part of an evolution of philosophy for community colleges and universities, where the institutions previously saw each other as competitors.“We are putting to rest old tension between community colleges and universities and moving toward the common goals of teaching and controlling cost,” Haeger said. “We are essentially changing the focus of these institutions.”

The board later postponed a motion until the regularly scheduled April meeting that could modify policies for setting tuition and fees for the universities, including the practice of comparing tuition rates to peer institutions. The board also will consider tuition requests at the April meeting, which will be held at the University of Arizona.

Haeger said that while the research mission, programs, faculty and scope of an institution is reviewed when the board determines peers for each of the universities, there are additional issues to weigh when setting tuition.

“There are very few states who are not having their budgets cut. But other states have large state financial aid systems whereas in Arizona, universities have to create their own,” he said.

During the afternoon session, ABOR approved NAU’s request to modify ventilation systems in the Science Laboratory. Jennus Burton, NAU vice president for Finance and Administration, predicted the project would come in below the estimated $9 million.