Amid an ongoing lawsuit against the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) by the Arizona Office of the Attorney General concerning tuition hikes as well as new legislation threatening to dismantle ABOR entirely, ABOR President Eileen Klein announced her intention to resign in June early in the afternoon Monday, March 26.
Although her original contract was for three years, she has held the position for five.
“Today, I write to share some personal news: I’ll be leaving ABOR later this year to take some time off before deciding what my next adventure will be,” said Klein in a letter posted on ABOR’s website announcing her resignation.
The news came as a surprise even to other regents.
In an press release published Monday, ABOR Chair Bill Ridenour recounted Klein's contributions as president and thanked her for helping set future goals for continued growth.
Ridenour said Klein's leadership had been important in advancing ABOR’s strategic plan for improving the contributions and quality of all three state universities. He also attributed the shift in focus of state universities’ goals to her.
“In collaboration with the board and our university presidents, she has repositioned our universities for long-term success – focused on outcomes, strategic decision-making, long-term competitiveness, total transparency and quality assurance,” said Ridenour in the press release.
While she had long fulfilled the original time obligation of her contract, Klein’s decision comes amid a lawsuit against ABOR.
In September 2017, the Arizona Office of the Attorney General filed a lawsuit against ABOR for tuition hikes over the past 15 years that they viewed as unconstitutional, as well as taking issue with universities using state funds to provide tuition for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) recipients.
In 2003, the average in-state tuition was approximately $2,600 per semester for full-time students. At the time, UA’s tuition was the highest at $2,790 per year, with ASU costing $2,508 per year and NAU at $2,585 per year.
Now the average in-state tuition for full-time students is more than $12,000 per year.
ABOR’s future is also uncertain, as state legislators are currently seeking to do away with the organization with House Bill 2203 which aims to dismantle the organization and return control of the three state universities to local legislators.
Representative Mark Finchem of Oro Valley originally proposed the legislation, claiming that state universities no longer have education and setting students up for success after graduation as their primary focuses.
Despite these issues, Klein is resigning solely for personal reasons. In the letter published on ABOR’s website, she candidly recalled a favorite Peanuts comic strip that philosophized on life before announcing that she is simply turning to a new page in her own life.
Klein wrote that she was proud of what she had accomplished during her five years as president, and of the universities themselves for becoming more competitive and successful.
“By virtually every measure, these institutions of higher learning are more competitive and successful than ever. Graduation rates are up. So is student success and diversity,” Klein said in the letter.