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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Never Settle has challenges ahead

Cecilia+Alvarez%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUniversity+of+Arizona+President+Ann+Weaver+Hart+discusses+future+tuition+possibilities+at+the+ABOR+meeting+on+March+25%2C+2014.+
Cecilia Alvarez
Cecilia Alvarez/ The Daily Wildcat University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart discusses future tuition possibilities at the ABOR meeting on March 25, 2014.

UA administrators will face some challenges as they move forward with the university’s academic strategic plan.

The goals outlined in Never Settle include student engagement through real-world experiential learning; innovation by expanding research and creating new ideas; partnership between the university and businesses, community and governments; and synergy between colleges and departments within the university.

These priorities are meant to help the university reach the Arizona Board of Regents’ 2020 goals, which include increasing research expenditures, retaining more freshmen and increasing the number of degrees produced.

UA President Ann Weaver Hart presented Never Settle to the board of regents in November 2013.
Alongside the strategic plan, UA senior administrators also outlined a business plan, which explained where the university would find the resources necessary to implement Never Settle’s goals.

State funding falls short

As part of its budget recommendation, the UA asked the state for an additional $15 million for discovery and innovation, $8 million for a new veterinary school and $11.8 million for performance funding.

The state budget, however, fell short of the university’s expectations, allocating only $5.5 million to the UA — $2 million for research infrastructure and $3.5 million for the university’s Cooperative Extension, an education network that focuses on developing agricultural programs and research for Arizona.

The $15 million requested would have been used to recruit researchers in the biomedical sciences.
UA administrators will now have to take a new approach to the business plan, which may include recruiting more out-of-state students, partnering with constituents around the state and a stronger focus on entrepreneurship than the initial plan called for, Hart said.

“We’re going back to the drawing board,” Hart said. “We’re looking at a new business plan that is a partnership between philanthropy and different models of revenue. We’ve got the goals, we’ve got the plan, and as obstacles happen or as revenue sources may or may not show up, we’ll look for new sources.”

While the university continues to receive base funding from the state, the overall amount of funding for the UA that comes from the state is down to about 7 to 8 percent, said Rick Myers, chair of the board of regents.

Compared to six years ago, when the state provided more than two-thirds of the general education fund, the state today provides less than one-third of support for students’ general education, Myers added.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve kind of reset our expectations,” Myers said. “If you went to someone in the Legislature and said, ‘We’d like you to [fund] U of A at the same level you funded them in 2007,’ they’d laugh at you and say, ‘Well, there’s no way we can come up with that money for U of A.’”

Despite the significant decrease in state funding since 2008, base funding has increased almost 6 percent since 2012, from more than $265 million in the 2012 fiscal year to more than $280 million in the 2015 fiscal year.

While Arizona’s revenue projections are better now than they were six years ago when the recession started, Rep. Ethan Orr (R-District 9) said the state still doesn’t have as large a budget as it did in 2008, before the downturn in the economy. The state budget this year is $9.3 billion, compared to almost $13 billion in 2008.

Orr said the state has also managed to provide the UA with $15 million in incremental funding in the past three years. Orr is optimistic that the UA will be better funded by the state in the future since parity funding, an agreement to make per-student funding equal among the three state universities, ended this year.

“The very large sums of money that we have been giving to [Arizona State University] and [Northern Arizona University], which has really sucked a lot of the oxygen out of the room, that is finished,” Orr said, “and so that frees up a lot more of our higher education resources to adequately fund the U of A.”

A push for philanthropic dollars

As government funding has decreased, the UA, like many universities, has turned to private donors for support. The UA publicly launched its fundraising campaign, Arizona Now, last month and announced a goal of $1.5 billion in gifts and commitments from donors.

The campaign has reached more than 50 percent of that goal from the period before the campaign went public. Arizona Now had been in a quiet phase since 2010, meaning the almost $860 million that has been raised was raised over a four-year period.

Arizona Now will support Never Settle’s goals, but the UA won’t actually have $1.5 billion in savings all at once. About 98 percent of all gifts to the university are restricted and directed by the donors, said Jim Moore, president and CEO of the UA Foundation.

Moore said a lot of the money that has come in the last four years has been allocated and used to support students, for endowments to bring in faculty and for the Lowell Stevens Football Facility, among other designations.

“So over the eight-year period, the funds flow in and then get put to work right away in many cases,” Moore said.

Deans and division heads are also developing fundraising goals, which will be invested in the outcome of the strategic plan, Hart said. Having a vision for the university and being able to explain the UA’s goals and opportunities helps build relationships with donors, she added.

Moving forward with Never Settle

Along with seeking other revenue sources, efficiency will be key to implementing Never Settle.

University administrators, faculty and staff will constantly have to reevaluate where they can improve in saving money in order to increase the amount of the revenue that goes into the core mission of the strategic plan, Hart said.

“It’s a new day for places like the University of Arizona in that we’re constantly going to be surveying ways to redirect resources to our education and resource mission,” Hart said. “It’s a continuous chain and innovation process that we are now engaged in.”

Never Settle is more than just a plan — it’s a new direction the university is taking, and it requires a diverse set of revenues in order to make projections, said Andrew Comrie, UA provost.

“If one piece doesn’t work out, you have all the other pieces working for you still,” Comrie said.

Administrators will constantly have to adapt and change as the university looks to new sources of revenue, Comrie said. At the same time, state support remains important, and the university will continue to push for that support, he added.

“That said, if over time we simply don’t get … the kind of sustained investment that is needed to reach these goals that the state would like us to reach, then clearly that will have an impact,” Comrie said.

Hart said there is no plan at the moment to revamp or review the goals in Never Settle, as that would have to come more gradually, after the business plan is redefined.

Myers said department heads and college deans are having to re-prioritize some goals based on the resources they have from the university’s base funding.

“In my mind, Never Settle is going to happen,” Myers said. “It’ll just be slower if we don’t get more incremental funding.”

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