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The Arizona Board of Regents: Providing Governance and Vision for Arizona’s Public Universities

by Ernest Calderon

The Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) has a long tradition of ensuring excellence in higher education for Arizona. As the governing body of our state’s public universities – Arizona State University (ASU), Northern Arizona University (NAU) and the University of Arizona (UA), it was first established in 1864 by the Arizona Territorial Legislature.

At that time, the Board of Regents was comprised of three members and governed the University of Arizona. In 1945, Governor Sidney Preston Osborn signed House Bill 136, which expanded the board to include the Arizona State Teachers College at Tempe and Flagstaff (now known as Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University).

Today, the Board consists of 12 members who govern Arizona’s three public universities through policymaking, coordination and oversight. The Board’s mission is to ensure access for qualified residents of Arizona to undergraduate and graduate instruction; promote the discovery, application, and dissemination of new knowledge; extend the benefits of university activities to Arizona’s citizens outside the university; and maximize the benefits derived from the state’s investment in education.

Eight of the Board’s 12 members are citizen volunteers appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Arizona State Senate to serve staggered eight-year terms. The Governor, Superintendent of Public Instruction and two university students, who are appointed by the Governor, comprise the remaining four members.

As stewards of the university system, the Board has developed an innovative and aggressive strategic plan for Arizona’s educational and economic future–producing enough high-quality university degrees for the state to be nationally competitive by the year 2020. The strategic plan, known as 2020 Vision, calls for reform in both the instructional delivery model and the financing of the system. Its goals support and stimulate a growing, vibrant economy and a high quality of life for Arizonans through a top-performing university system that is nationally recognized for excellence in academic and research pursuits.

Arizonans will benefit as more residents become educated. Numerous studies support the link between education level and personal income, increased tax revenues, greater civic participation and community strength. In order to increase access to higher education so that a greater number of residents can obtain a bachelor’s degree, the Board has instructed the universities to reshape programs and develop more low-cost options for students to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Developing new programs and reshaping the instructional system during times of fiscal uncertainty can be a challenge, which is why the system is leveraging available resources toward partnerships and programs that can help us get there. The Board has implemented several “two plus two” and “three plus one” programs where students spend their initial years at the community college and complete the remaining one or two years at a university. These programs provide seamless pathways from the community college to the university and reduce the overall cost of obtaining a bachelor’s degree.   Students across Arizona have responded positively to these opportunities.

Partnership campuses such as NAU-Yavapai and UA South are also reforming educational opportunities for Arizonans. For example, NAU-Yavapai, a new and innovative partnership between NAU, Yavapai College and the Town of Prescott Valley, will offer students affordable and accessible bachelor’s degrees beginning in the fall of 2010. Degree programs are designed for students who want a structured plan to complete a bachelor’s degree at their own pace, in some cases as little as three years. Resident undergraduate tuition is also set at a lower cost than at any other NAU campus.

UA South provides high-quality, accessible educational opportunities throughout southeastern Arizona, operating sites in Sierra Vista, the Cochise College Douglas campus, Pima Community College (East and Desert Vista campuses), the UA Science and Technology Park in Tucson, Fort Huachuca, and at UA Santa Cruz in Nogales. Students typically transfer to UA South from local community colleges and pursue their last two years of one of 14 undergraduate degrees through a “two plus two” arrangement. These campuses create learning communities that support regional growth and economic development opportunities and provide expertise for generating solutions to community problems through the education and public service activities of their faculty, staff, and students.

ASU is currently working on establishing the “Colleges@ASU,” which will be instruction-intensive colleges that provide a three-year path to a bachelor’s degree at a lower cost than at ASU’s four university campuses. The Colleges@ASU will offer a limited number of high-demand ASU undergraduate programs to students living in various communities across the state. The Colleges@ASU will be free-standing colleges and will potentially be operated in conjunction with local community colleges.

As the Board moves forward, we will continue to work on these reforms and provide the proper governance of the system that the citizens of Arizona deserve. We will ensure Arizona’s public universities have a statewide focus, value and impact as they administer the policies set forth by the Board. Additionally, the Board will continue to exercise broad oversight of the institutions and pledge the delivery of a high-quality education, the efficient use of resources, public accountability, and a positive benefit to all Arizonans.

Find out more about 2020 Vision and the overarching mission and vision of the Board of Regents by visiting www.abor.asu.edu.

Ernest Calderόn is President of the Arizona Board of Regents.

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