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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Record high enrollments strain Ariz. universities

    Record high enrollments strain Ariz. universities

    Arizona’s universities are straining to accommodate a record number of enrollments, and the situation will only worsen in the future because of skyrocketing growth rates, officials said at a roundtable discussion yesterday morning.

    But Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, said he has a plan.

    “”Arizona badly needs more college graduates, and the UA is inclined to do more; not just focus on research,”” said Jones.

    The discussion centered on the initial findings of a major study regarding the availability of higher education opportunities in Southern Arizona.

    America is the only country in the world where 40- to 50-year-olds are better educated than the younger population of 20- to 30-year-olds, Jones said.

    “”For all other countries, the 20- to 30-year-olds are better educated,”” said Jones.

    Arizona’s population more than tripled in the last three decades and is expected to increase by 54 percent, from 5.6 million residents in 2003 to approximately 8.6 million residents in 2020, according to an Arizona Board of Regents report.

    “”We’ve identified the problems, and now we have to ask ourselves what we are going to do about them,”” said Jones.

    In an effort to compensate for the increasing demand of higher education, Pima Community College is working closely with the UA to offer night and weekend classes, said Marty Cortez, a member of the Board of Governors for Pima Community College.

    Distance education programs, such as online and televised classes, are rapidly growing and students can take them to supplement their traditional classes, said Roy Flores, Pima Community College chancellor.

    But that won’t be enough to accommodate all of the future students, said Cortez.

    “”We need to expand our partnership with the UA,”” said Cortez.

    Jones encouraged Pima Community College to start offering bachelor’s degrees in the future as a possible fix.

    Another possibility would be to build two new free-standing “”regional universities”” to help Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and the UA to better serve Arizona, according to a regents’ report.

    This plan would connect UA South with NAU-Yuma to form Southern Arizona University, the report stated.

    Jones gave an overview of a study released last month by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education grading Arizona universities on a report card split into six categories.

    The categories include the university’s preparation, participation, completion rate, affordability, benefits and a miscellaneous learning category.

    Arizona universities received a poor grade in preparing high school students for college and received a failing grade in the affordability category, the study stated.

    “”If you have anything less than a high school diploma, your chances for a middle-class life are pretty slim,”” said Jones.

    Part of the problem is aligning college curriculum with the students’ needs, said Jones.

    “”Instant gratification is what students want,”” said Jones. “”We’re not connecting with their priorities.””

    Jones suggested teaching general knowledge classes in a contextual manner such as math courses for carpenters or reading classes with a business focus.

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