June 13, The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) met to discuss numerous issues across all three major state universities. ASU President Michael Crowe, UA President Robert Robbins and NAU President Rita Cheng were present to chime in on these issues which will affect each university.
Members of the Arizona community at large attended the meeting to express the needs of their communities — Flagstaff, NAU and otherwise. The most popular concerns were that of climate change, research, forest safety and regulation and student mental health.
ABOR Executive Director John Arnold presented the annual director’s update, in which the board looked to other universities to signify where we stand as a state in terms of education. In a comparative study, figures came forward which show where Arizona and its universities are succeeding and areas that need work.
Arizona ranks No. 1 in both enrollment and Bachelor Degree growth, comparatively to the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE+) states, which encompass the entire Western region of the U.S. including Alaska and Hawaii. On a national scale, Arizona ranks third and second in these categories.
Cheng said, “Other states are graduating students, but not replacing that with growth.”
ABOR has put in place 13 goals, projected to be reached by 2025. These goals include increasing freshman retention, replacing graduates with new students and general enrollment growth. Progress on these goals are positive and on-pace with projections.
Arnold said, “We are either super close or well ahead of the metrics.”
Of the report, Arnold said, “Our public universities are doing way more with way less, compared to other states and the U.S. average.”
Arizona ranks 49 nationally in state-funded education resources — $128.57 per capita, to be exact. The WICHE+ median is more than double the Arizona average, standing at $286.46.
The annual director’s update focused on two different types of work done by ABOR this year: external and internal. External work includes attainment, the value proposition of higher education and the Arizona Teachers Academy. Internal work includes general education, enrollment trends, student health and free speech.
ABOR is increasing communication and working with partners to improve larger community relationships, as well as whose within the university communities.
Underfunding was a throughline of the meeting. The numbers within the report require the context that the state has neglected Arizona public schools for years, resulting in lower numbers in certain categories, Arnold said.
“Years of underfunding are reflected here,” Cheng commented.
Moving forward, ABOR will continue to focus on their aforementioned external and internal work, as well as risks and financial sustainability.
After a 10-minute break, the board regrouped to vote on the proposed budgets of ASU, UA and NAU for this upcoming fiscal year. All three budgets were passed unanimously.
Representatives from ASU and UA came forward to discuss specific agenda items regarding their universities. These topics included acquisition of a vacant property on UA’s campus, a review of recent legislation, approval of a $15 million General Fund for the Teachers Academy in fiscal year 2020 and GPA requirements for sports teams. All motions were passed.