FLAGSTAFF — The Arizona Board of Regents discussed changing the tuition setting process for the state universities at its meeting on the Northern Arizona University campus on Thursday.
The new process would break up the tuition setting into three separate meetings occurring at each of the universities — UA, NAU and Arizona State University — instead of setting all of the universities’ tuition rates at one meeting. The board of regents is also considering changes that would involve multi-year tuition plans and a new business cycle for Arizona universities’ governing board.
Eileen Klein, president of the board of regents, said the separate meetings would allow the regents to get to understand the operations and elements of each university, and they would set tuition rates at the same time as they do the operational and financial review for that university. She said this would help the regents view each of the universities separately rather than just side-by-side. In the past, tuition rates for all three state universities have been set by the regents at a single meeting in April.
“We would be moving away from this annual tradition where we stop the presses and spend all of our time focusing on tuition and there’s no context to any of the discussion,” Klein said.
This would also mean a move away from the annual tuition hearings that occur on each campus of the state universities, she said. Klein added that the student regents would work with student governments to get more input.
Regent Greg Patterson said the system now where the regents vote on all the tuition increases at the same time is difficult, and that he supports the proposal for changing the tuition setting process.
“I like the deep drill that says, ‘We’re on this campus to discuss your plan and we’re going to hear your tuition plan and how it fits in,’” Patterson said.
Student Regent Valerie Hanna said when she discussed it with students, there was anticipation for rethinking how tuition and fees are set.
“A lot of students are really excited that [the new process] will bring a lot more predictability,” Hanna said.
This would mean a change to the calendar of the board of regents’ business cycle, Klein said. The tentative schedule for 2015 as Klein has it in the proposal has the tuition setting for the UA in February, NAU in March and ASU in April.
Regent LuAnn Leonard said she is worried that February would be too soon for the UA to provide the numbers that would be needed to decide on tuition rates for the university. Hanna also voiced concerns over the UA having only a few months to come up with its tuition proposal.
The proposed multi-year tuition setting process would have the regents set tuition rates for the universities for several years out. Klein said this would give some certainty to the university presidents of the revenue they can expect over several years.
The regents also discussed student safety at the state universities. Last year, the board of regents set up the Statewide Student Safety Task Force last year to address these concerns. Local task forces for each university submitted their findings at a meeting in June.
“There was some initial concern, I think, on everyone’s part about what the objective was, but the universities did a terrific job of making it a very inclusive process,” Klein said.
Klein said one of the main takeaways from the task force was better working with local law enforcement agencies and local governments on student safety.
Klein added that they want to think about prevention and not only enforcement when it comes to ensuring student safety.
Leonard said the discussion on student safety among the state universities will be ongoing.
The board of regents also voted to approve several projects, budget requests and other items requested by the universities including:
-The operating budget requests for the state universities for the 2016 fiscal year
-Capital improvement plans for the universities for 2016-18
-Funding proposed projects for the state universities from the board of regents’ innovation fund
-A ground lease for the UA with the city of Phoenix to build onto its Phoenix Biomedical campus with the Biosciences Partnership Building
-An agreement for the UA on the operation of the Giant Magellan Telescope
-The UA’s Bioscience Research Laboratories project
-The UA’s request to enter into an agreement with Pima County and the YMCA to build a library complex at the UA Science and Technology Park
-An addendum to the UA’s academic strategic plan that would add a doctor of veterinary medicine degree. Jay Heiler, vice chairman of the board of regents, voted against the proposal, making it the only item to receive a dissenting vote.
The board of regents moved quickly through the items to approve during the afternoon, raising concerns from one of its members.
Regent Rick Myers said he was “uncomfortable” with the pace the regents were moving at and that he felt the vice presidents for research from the three universities were “shortchanged” when they were rushed through their presentations.
Patterson responded to Myers’ concerns, saying the regents worked on each of the items for a long time in committees and the meeting was pressed for time for several reasons.
The regents will reconvene at NAU on Friday where they will vote on approving performance incentives for UA President Ann Weaver Hart, as well as ASU President Michael Crow.
Follow Ethan McSweeney on Twitter @EthanMcSweeney