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Arizona’s Top 10 Higher Education Accomplishments

by Eileen Klein

In the spirit of David Letterman’s infamous Top 10 lists – admittedly with less humor, but more impact – I’d like to share significant higher education achievements undertaken by the Arizona Board of Regents during the past fiscal year. This summary offers an opportunity to reflect on important work the board undertakes and advances, news that is often overshadowed by state budget battles and tuition setting.

Here are our Top 10 accomplishments from the last year (in no particular order) that may not have made mainstream news but are noteworthy nonetheless.

Top 10 Accomplishments

10. Performance gains – Five years ago, ABOR adopted a series of performance metrics to manage and measure productivity our university system continues to make in performance gains: community college transfers awarded bachelor’s degrees are up four percent from the previous year and represent a third of all bachelor’s degrees awarded; bachelor’s degrees awarded are up 3.5 percent and master’s degrees 5.3 percent; and freshman retention and six-year graduation rates are up .8 and 1.8 percent respectively.

9. Improving student diversity – All three universities set records in diversity and are increasingly reflecting the changing demographics of our state, an important pillar of our mission of providing access to all: ASU had its most diverse student body ever with 34 percent of students from under-represented groups; NAU boosted diversity with 9 percent growth and the UA enjoyed a record diverse freshman class at 41.4 percent.

8. Groundbreaking partnerships – ABOR approved one of the most significant healthcare deals in modern Arizona history with the merger of the University of Arizona Health Network into Banner Health, creating a statewide healthcare organization and comprehensive new model for academic medicine.

7. Increasing access – More students nationwide are recognizing the value of an Arizona public university education and now more of those students will be able to access it with three major policy changes:

  • Arizona was approved to participate in the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement, which simplifies the process and reduces costs to offer online degrees outside of our state.
  • ABOR approved a new non-resident undergraduate tuition rate (50 percent more than in-state tuition) for Arizona high-school graduates who don’t qualify for in-state tuition.
  • The court decision in the State of Arizona vs. the Maricopa County Community College District paved the way for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival students to qualify for in-state tuition.

6. Improving student safety – We completed the Student Safety Task Force which led to increased communication, programming, outreach and partnerships aimed at curbing student safety. And, ABOR amended its conduct policies to delegate full responsibility to the universities to adopt procedures tailored to each institution to address code of conduct violations in order to quickly respond to rapidly changing laws and requirements, including those regarding sexual misconduct.

5. Supporting economic development in Arizona – Serving as partners in economic development and supporting business growth and expansion, ABOR:

  • Partnered with the Arizona Commerce Authority to develop its Workforce 2020 strategic plan by estimating job growth in targeted industries and mapping degree programs as a source of labor supply.
  • Hosted a roundtable with mining industry leaders to discuss how our universities can continue to support the industry by ensuring classroom offerings are relevant to prepare the future workforce and that our research in this area continues to grow.

4. Increasing accountability – We increased transparency and accountability by better aligning university performance reviews and business planning with tuition setting and budgeting decisions through singular meetings focused on the performance of each university.

3. Elevating student voices – Students had a greater voice in our process as we dedicated time on our agenda for our student regents and student body leaders to report out on key issues, made multiple presentations to student groups on policy issues, and continued to collect feedback from students on tuition setting.

2. Increasing higher education pathways – In an effort to recognize and support new pathways to higher education, ABOR voted to allow career and technical education credits to count for university admission. Students can now demonstrate either fine arts or CTE competency in applying for assured undergraduate admission.

1. Leveraging partnerships for student preparedness – Federal grant dollars secured by ABOR led to the development of the English language arts “transition course” module designed to boost college preparedness. The effort to develop the module was coordinated by the College and Career Ready Partnership, a collaborative of ABOR, community colleges, the governor’s office, and the Arizona Department of Education, and will be available to seniors in select high schools starting this fall.

Eileen KleinOur work last year was extensive and comprehensive, and there is still much to be done to continually refine the higher education enterprise in Arizona. For all of those who are involved in education– from our K-12 system to our universities – let’s ensure that the coming year is one during which we continue to strive for the best in our schools and universities, and ultimately, the success of our students.

Eileen Klein is President of the Arizona Board of Regents.

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