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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    New university directions dominate Regents meeting

    Ranging from a strategic plan to increase the number of bachelor’s degrees issued by the Arizona university system to setting Sean Miller’s contract in stone, the Arizona Board of Regents’ discussions on June 18 and 19 in Flagstaff aimed to have a profound impact on Arizona students and residents, the Regents said.

    Perhaps the most noteworthy goal discussed about the future of the UA, is the university’s goal to increase UA enrollment 37 percent by 2020, said President Robert Shelton.

    The meeting started with a wide-reaching plan to revise the architectural framework of the university system.

    Northern Arizona University President John Haeger opened the discussion by emphasizing Arizona’s poor record of supplying its residents with bachelor degrees.

    “”The percentage of people in Arizona aged 25 to 44 with bachelor’s degrees is among the worst in the nation,”” Haeger said.

    In order to remedy this problem, the three presidents of the Arizona state schools, Haeger, Arizona State University President Michael Crow and Shelton outlined plans to increase the degree-giving capacity of the Arizona school system.

    “”Our goal is to produce high quality, extremely relevant degrees at lower cost that are relevant to the communities in which students will be studying,”” Shelton said.

    Rather than creating entirely new four-year institutions of learning, the council of presidents proposed utilizing existing resources in the form of various community colleges that could be redeveloped to offer four-year degree programs.

    Considering that only 1,500 out of 9,500 annual community college graduates go on to pursue a bachelor’s degree, the council of presidents hopes to increase this number drastically by offering degrees that will help Arizona residents excel in their community.

    “”Regional communities have to see the value of a degree in a real way,”” Shelton said.

    In Shelton’s plan to increase the UA’s enrollment, 10,000 of these new students will come from community colleges that are restructured into branch universities, primarily in southern Arizona where the UA has close ties with regional community colleges, Shelton said.

    The UA is currently working on developing a scalable startup model for local community college partners that will integrate UA and community college content. If all goes as planned, Shelton’s plan will provide 1,700 degrees off-campus annually by 2020.

    While the UA’s proposed plan to pump more college graduates into the workforce is in its infancy, Haeger outlined a plan for NAU to partner with Yavapai Community College to issue NAU accredited degrees to community college students by this fall.

    A traditional four-year education at NAU costs approximately $12,684. Yavapai Community College will be offering an accredited NAU degree for about $4,820 total, and students can complete their degree according to their own pace.

    While the ABOR was adamant in its resolve to increase the number of students who go on to achieve a bachelor’s degree in Arizona, they nevertheless maintained that the quality of education and the qualification of students enrolled in the universities cannot be compromised.

    In order to make sure that students will be successful in the Arizona system, the ABOR finalized a decision to raise the qualifications for resident transfer students from community college into state four-year universities.

    The proposed policy change limits assured admission to transfer students who either complete the Arizona General Education Curriculum and have a 2.5 cumulative GPA or an associate degree and have a 2.0 GPA.

    Analysis of the success of Arizona transfer students implies that the previous policy of assured admittance for students who have obtained 24 credits and at least a 2.0 GPA is insufficient, the Regents said.

    The ABOR stressed that the primary goal of this change is to improve the success rate of transfer students enrolled in the universities.

    “”Some people might think that this change is being elitist, however it is preparing transfer students for the reality of university education,”” said Student Regent David Martinez.

    The changes will go into effect in fall 2010.

    Sean Miller’s contract approved

    The ABOR finished off the first day of their retreat by finalizing the contract of UA men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller.

    The contract was originally approved as a five-year deal, with a clause adding two years to the contract after Miller’s first two years as coach, barring any reason for termination.

    Miller will receive a $900,000 base salary, along with the use of a private jet and other incentives.

    With incoming funds from outside resources, Miller will essentially walk away with about $1.6 million per year.

    The contract was approved after several brief questions from the ABOR in regards to what non-athletic benefits can be derived from signing someone of Miller’s stature.

    Shelton responded by pointing out the challenges that intercollegiate athletes face on and off the court and his great faith in Miller’s ability to be a positive influence on student athletes.

    “”We believe that Miller is a stellar individual and has a great record of graduating his players,”” Shelton said.

    If Miller finishes out his contract, he will net an extra $1 million. If the coach leaves early, though, he will be forced to pay the UA $500,000.

    Incentives include $50,000 for winning a conference championship in the regular season or Pacific 10 Conference Tournament, as well as $300,000 if Miller’s Wildcats make it to the Final Four. A national championship would give the head coach an extra $675,000.

    UA research is going unnoticed, official says

    During the morning session of June 18, the ABOR addressed the research output and costs of the university system.

    The three state public universities presented information on their current research performance and outlined the metrics by which research universities are judged.

    The UA is currently the leading research university in the southwest United States, the 15th overall for public universities in overall research and the first in the nation for space sciences.

    The UA’s Dr. Leslie Tolbert gave a presentation on the current funding for research and the university’s areas of research concentration.

    The UA expects to receive approximately $118 million in stimulus funding from the federal government and will have applied for approximately $280 million in grants from the government and private investors by the end of the month.

    While Tolbert’s presentation focused on maximizing funding for the university’s colleges, she expressed concern that the main purpose of university research is going unnoticed.

    “”With so much time being spent discussing funding, everyone is forgetting the valuable contribution that cutting edge research can make in a student’s education,”” Tolbert said. “”As a researcher and a teacher, I believe that we need to focus on involving the students so that they will be able to play a fundamental role in addressing society’s future problems.””

    The ABOR made the point that while the discoveries that are being made are revolutionary in nature, not enough effort is being put into communicating the benefits of university research into simpler terms that the public can appreciate.

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