Regents approve NAU budget request focused on innovative technology

Old Main

Instructional innovation at Northern Arizona University and an incremental step to reducing disparity in per-student funding were part of a fiscal year 2013 budget request approved Thursday by the Arizona Board of Regents during its meeting on the NAU campus.

NAU’s request of $116.7 million is part of an $801.7 million total for the Arizona University System, an increase of 17.5 percent over fiscal year 2012 state general fund appropriations. The regents will send the entire package to the Legislature by Oct. 1.

Regents chair Fred DuVal called the overall request “realistic and modest” while already looking ahead to a fiscal year 2014 budget that will be based on performance funding. Throughout the day, the budget was described as a transitional step from enrollment-based funding, which DuVal called “over, dead, failed,” to a formula based on a series of performance metrics.

With that fundamental change in mind, NAU ‘s request includes one-time funding of $11.6 million for student success initiatives through instructional innovation. NAU President John Haeger linked the funding to the need to use technology as a tool for increasing student retention.

“Up until now, we’ve used technology around the edges of the university,” Haeger said, “which has not allowed us to transform in the same way as business.” He explained that the funding would be used to redesign courses and start up a math emporium modeled on a project at Virginia Tech. Doing so, he said, will require “technology, software and newly designed learning spaces.”

The $15.3 million in disparity funding approved by the regents, which represents one-fifth of the total funding needed to achieve parity between the three universities, resulted from a study led by Haeger and agreed upon by all three university presidents. NAU’s $3.3 million share of disparity funding is set to increase over each of the next five years.

In an afternoon session, the regents approved NAU’s three capital improvement project requests. They include $7.5 million for improvements to Ardrey Auditorium; authorization to issue bonds to finance a $25.5 million parking structure; and authorization for a public-private lease-purchase agreement that would allow the NAU Foundation to construct a three-story office building that would house the backroom operations of Admissions and Marketing.

The capital projects will be sent separately to the Legislature by Oct. 15.

The regents also approved $54 million budgeted from the Technology Research and Initiative Fund on a 40-40-20 formula, making NAU’s share $10.7 million. The TRIF funds are generated by state sales tax revenue approved under Proposition 301. NAU plans to use the funds for access and workforce development; improving health; and water, energy and environmental solutions.

The entire Arizona University System fiscal year 2013 budget request is available online.