The Arizona Board of Regents held a special meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 13 to discuss contracts for the three university presidents, the 2017 Fiscal Year Financial Aid Report and Cost Study Report for Arizona’s public universities.
In university presidents’ contracts, presidents can be compensated for achieving “at-risk” goals: key goals that are determined to be the most important for a given year. The regents review the contract of each president and decide if they met the goal and will be paid for it.
Among the presidents compensated for at-risk goals was former UA President Ann Weaver Hart. The regents voted unanimously to award her $15,000 in compensation for her work in improving the partnership between Banner Health and the UA.
According to the Executive Summary, the partnership must “highlight not just the financial benefits and clinical care, but also articulate the vision of a great research university and great clinical organization partnering to create the future of medical care.”
She was also awarded $10,000 after a unanimous vote for re-establishing the UA Honors College as an “important and competitive part of the university,” according to the executive summary, bringing her total at-risk compensation to $25,000.
“I just want to highlight the fact that these were very aggressive goals,” board secretary Rick Myers said. “We point these presidents in this direction and they really rise to the occasion.”
However, Hart, along with the other university presidents, was not awarded a $15,000 Annual Performance Incentive Agreement from her work on the regents’ Enterprise Executive Committee (EEC) while serving as UA president.
The EEC set out on a quality education initiative in 2016. Myers, who voted against the motion, did not see enough progress from the initiative.
“I absolutely think this quality initiative that’s going on across the universities is absolutely critical and presidents are doing a great deal of work there,” Myers said. “I don’t think that we made enough progress last year, and that’s why I’m going to be voting no.”
Regents’ Vice President Ron Shoopman disagreed, stating that the incentives were catalysts that move the university in a particular direction.
“I think the work done on quality has instilled in each of the universities that we focus on quality,” Shoopman said. “And I think achieving that is significant in my mind to vote yes.”
For their second item on the agenda, the regents approved their first Cost Study Report which details the cost of attendance at each university.
According to Arizona Revised Statutes 15-1650.03(A), the regents are required to release a report by Friday, December 15, and update it every five years.
While the study was supposed to only focus on resident, undergraduate students, graduate and non-resident students were included due to an inability to differentiate between them all.
Done in partnership with accounting firm Grant Thornton, the study found that Arizona’s public universities spent on average $16,813 per student in Fiscal Year 2016. For the UA, it spent $16,349 [IG1] [IG2] [IG3] per student.
Overall since FY 2012, the cost of educating a student increased at the statewide-level, when it was $12,253 per student, but decreased at the UA, down from $17,201 per student.
“Our universities are highly efficient, highly effective universities, especially when bench-marked against our peers,” said John Arnold, vice president for Business Management and Financial Affairs for the regents. “This confirms the story that we’ve been trying to tell for the last several years.”
In terms of online infrastructure to serve students, online classes were found to be no less expensive, if not more expensive than in-person instruction.
“Obviously we don’t have to provide a gym or a dorm,” said Rich Stanley, senior vice president and University Planner for Arizona State University.
“On the other hand we have very extensive telephone support and chatline support… I’m not sure I would agree that they are necessarily more expensive, but they are certainly not less expensive.”
Also, building an online course from the ground up is more expensive than simply updating an established one.
Board president Eileen Klein spoke about future plans to end obsolete fees. She also set a goal to continue expanding the involvement of students in the fee-setting process.
“We want to ensure that there is consistency across our campuses so no matter which major or department a student may have, students understand when tuition and fees are being set, what the opportunity is for a redress when they have concerns [and] wanting to build out… invoices which shows clearly what they’re being charged for,” Klein said.
Klein hoped that some of these goals would be met in time for spring tuition-setting so the changes would be in place by fall.
The regents then approved the Financial Aid Report for FY 2017. Key findings included an increase in statewide enrollment, an increase in diversity of students attending the universities and the financial aid model being “heavily reliant on the revenue generated from tuition and mandatory fees from non-resident students,” according to the executive summary.
State law requires the regents to adopt a financial aid report every year, with each year’s report becoming more detailed than the one prior, as the regents become more focused on financial aid.
The report’s main talking point was that the university system — comprised of ASU, UA and NAU — are ‘winning,’ according to Chad Sampson, vice president of strategic planning and initiatives for the regents. He said this data, coupled with other reports, show record enrollment and graduation rates.
“That is important because when we get into the numbers of financial aid — which is something that the regents care about very, very much — when you get into those numbers, you lose sight of why we use financial aid,” Sampson said.
Sampson described financial aid as a tool for the universities to use to help them attract students. The claim was echoed by Melissa Vito, who is in charge of Student Affairs, Enrollment and Initiatives at UA.
“This is a critical tool to how we enroll, retain and graduate our students,” Vito said. “UA is a great poster child for what happens when we play with financial aid and realize that you’ve gone too far.”
The report found that 78.5 percent of the student body at UA received some form of financial aid last year. Over the last six years, the number of undergraduate and graduate students receiving aid increased by 13 percent.
The report also noted that during this same period, undergraduate and graduate enrollment increased by “11.6 percent from 39,086 in fiscal year 2011 to 43,625 in fiscal year 2017.”
Board chair Bill Ridenour stressed the importance of understanding the Cost Study report and the Financial Aid Report.
“These are a couple of the items that the Board of Regents is most concerned about and most focused on,” Ridenour said.
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