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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Research shows UA is a community investment

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released its first study based solely in Southern Arizona examining how universities can impact local and regional development in addition to human capital on Monday.

The study, conducted by a team of about five to 10 researchers, has been ongoing since October 2009 and was released this year, according to Jaana Puukka, an analyst for OECD and a co-author of the study. It was conducted in Southern Arizona because the UA expressed an interest in having the organization do research in part with the university.

The research focused on how to drive down the cost of higher education, how to improve sociocultural and environmental development skills and ways to advance human capital skills, Puukka said. Southern Arizona has made slow progress toward a knowledge-based economy, which is due to increasing poverty, lack of economic diversity and a long-term underinvestment in education.

Changing this last factor is the key to helping the Southern Arizona region, as well as others around the world, become a more economically knowledgeable community, Puukka added.
While the development of post-secondary and higher education is the key factor to advancing the community, Puukka said, the community must be willing to help fund education in return and see it as an investment for the city and region’s future.

“Every element of the educational system, like kindergarten through 12th-grade programs as well as community colleges and major universities, need to work together to make sure that the best possible education is delivered to all the citizens in the state,” said J.D. Rottweiler, president of Cochise College.

The study was publicly presented to the community on Monday, and many attendees had thoughts about seeing education funding as a community investment.

Augie Garcia, an employee with Associates in Trade and Investments, said it is a good thing that unbiased experts are letting Tucsonans know how they are doing as a community and what they need to improve on.

“It is always nice to have someone with a global view let you know what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong,” he said.

UA community members also attended the presentation.

“I think it highlighted much of what we already knew about the problems in Southern Arizona and issues regarding access, but I think it was nice to get an outside opinion to validate some of the things people were concerned with,” said Jenny Lee, an associate professor of educational policy studies and practice.

The state is not sufficiently funding education, she said, which is a big problem, and she hoped the OECD will give more legitimacy to these concerns.

“The challenge now is going to be to make the connection between what was said here and to get the Legislature to listen to these concerns,” said Blanca Torres, a doctoral candidate in higher education.

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