Research, technology and metrics highlight Regents meeting

The Arizona Board of Regents produced this video to highlight the ways that research within the Arizona university system is leading to real innovations that drive Arizona’s economy and improve lives.

Technology, research initiatives and performance metrics were dominant themes during the Arizona Board of Regents meeting this week in Flagstaff.

NAU President John Haeger today presented the university’s business plan that included increasing the use of technology in academics in order to meet goals in the board’s Arizona Higher Education Enterprise plan.

Haeger discussed highlights from the university’s business plan, which relies on instructional innovation and integration of technology in academics to meet goals set by the board. He likened NAU’s own strategic realignment to an enterprise in which the education mission is fulfilled through regional campuses, online and at the research campus in Flagstaff.

“Unless we start thinking as an enterprise, and look in places where we can maximize revenue, it’s very difficult to figure out a way to continue to move the university forward,” he said.

Haeger discussed freshman-focused programs to boost success and increase retention, including the Lumberjack Mathematics Center aimed at assessing and building specific skills.

“We’re spending a lot of time ensuring our students are successful, retained and able to earn a baccalaureate degree,” he said.

Haeger credited the Pledge program with driving enrollment increases and boosting freshman retention rates over the last four years. Since its inception, NAU has experienced a 24 percent increase in enrollment, and its first-time, full-time freshman retention rate climbed from 70 to 76 percent over the same period.

NAU’s online enrollment also increased from 462 students in 2003 to more than 3,000 students in 2011. The number of transfer students from Arizona community colleges seeking bachelor’s degrees at NAU has increased 54 percent over the last five years.

Haeger also pointed to enrollment increases in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, which have nearly doubled since 2004. Forty-one percent of the degrees NAU awarded in 2011 were in STEM fields, including graduates of the NAUTeach program that prepares Arizona’s math and science teachers.

The university presidents also presented a report on the institutions’ research metrics. Collectively, the universities contributed approximately $1 billion in research expenditures to the Arizona economy in the 2011 fiscal year. The board’s enterprise plan calls for the university system’s research expenditures to reach $2 billion by 2020. An overview of the university system’s research mission is highlighted in the video above. The full research report is available here.

The board approved parity funding allocated by the Arizona Legislature for NAU and Arizona State University for FY2013. Parity funds are intended to bring NAU and ASU to the same per-student funding level as is present at the University of Arizona. NAU will receive $3.3 million per year and ASU will receive $11 million per year over the next five years. The parity funds given to both universities for FY13 are restricted to course redesign technology and capital appropriations.

The board also adopted performance metrics for each of the universities based on the state Legislature’s 2011 Higher Education Budget Reconciliation bill that requires universities to structure budget requests based on performance and outcome-based funding. The model calls for increases in the number of degrees awarded, the number of completed credit hours and externally generated research and public service funding. Degrees in high-demand STEM fields will be weighted as they contribute to the state’s economic development strategy.

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 27 and 28 at NAU.