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ABOR recap: UA tuition proposals pass, Adia Barnes earns contract renewal

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University of Arizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins updated the Arizona Board of Regents on the university's latest endeavors during the April 15 ABOR meeting.

The Arizona Board of Regents live-streamed a public portion of their virtual meeting, covering topics ranging from changes in student tuition to a contract extension of the University of Arizona's women’s basketball head coach on April 15.

Finance, Capital, and Resources Committee

The Finance, Capital, and Resources Committee put base tuition and mandatory fees for all three public Arizona universities — the UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University — as one of the first items on the agenda. 

According to Karrin Taylor Robson, secretary of ABOR and chair of the Finance, Capital, and Resources Committee, for a second year in a row there will be no tuition increase for resident undergraduate students at all three universities.

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“Despite the many uncertainties created by the pandemic, we’re all grateful that the presidents have taken this bold step to provide in particular our resident students’ financial relief and as much certainty as possible for the upcoming academic year,” Robson said.

Notably, ASU President Michael Crow proposed no tuition increase for all resident, non resident, graduate, non graduate and international students. 

“No tuition increase for any student coming to Arizona State University,” Crow said.

NAU President Rita Cheng proposed a similar measure but is increasing tuition by 5% for all graduate students. 

UA President Dr. Robert C. Robbins said that while in-state undergraduates will receive no tuition increase, “we have a very modest 1.4% increase for other students and 3% for our medical schools and veterinary schools … . We feel good about the balance we are providing to our students and families.”

Additionally, Robbins forecasted that as the UA sees more of its classes move to in-person and an improvement in the economy, there will be more tuition increases for next year.

According to Robson, the universities have dealt with declining state support. Stagnant state funding has greatly impacted the universities, resulting in a low rank nationally in amount of state funds provided to support higher education. However, the universities together provided almost $1 billion in financial aid during the fiscal 2020 year to approximately 81% of all undergraduate students. 

“Frankly we haven’t recovered from the cuts our system incurred after the Great Recession back in 2008 and the succeeding years,” Robson said.

The UA will also increase or change some program, class and other academic fees in various departments, including an increase in the undergraduate honors college. There will also be a new sustainability fee, supported by the Associated Students of the University of Arizona, of $10 per semester to help with sustainability projects on campus.

The board passed all motions regarding tuition and fees for each university.

Adia Barnes Contract

The second item on the committee’s agenda was the contract extension of Arizona women’s basketball head coach, Adia Barnes, for an additional two years through the period ending April 30, 2026, as well as a new base salary, which the board unanimously supported. 

“We have a dynamic leader, an incredible head coach, an alum, arguably the greatest player to ever play here at the University of Arizona, and now to come back and be our head coach," said UA Director of Athletics Dave Heeke during the motion. "We are very proud of what she has done with the program.”

Administrative Business

The board also held the election of officers for a one-year term beginning July 1, including chair, chair-elect, secretary, treasurer and assistant treasurer. The board elected all officers. 

Additionally, the board ratified the initiation of a trademark infringement lawsuit filed on April 7 in the eastern district of Washington by universities in the Pac-12 against Sportswear Incorporated, including UA and ASU. Sportswear Incorporated has been selling unlicensed memorabilia using university-owned trademarks. 

Academic Affairs and Educational Attainment Committee

Prior to unanimous board approval, UA Provost Liesl Folks put forward the appointment of six regent professors. This included: Dante Lauretta from planetary sciences/lunar and planetary laboratory, Sonia Colina from the Spanish and Portuguese department, Marwan Krunz from electrical and computer engineering, Steven Archer from natural resources and the environment, Sallie Marston from geography and development and Ian Pepper from environmental science.

Chad Sampson, vice-president of academic affairs and institutional analysis at ABOR, introduced the first-time student retention report of 2020. The report included students who entered any of the three universities in fall of 2018 and stayed in the fall of 2019, meaning rates during the pandemic are not included. 

Across all three universities, first-time and full-time retention rates are increasing overtime since fiscal year 2016, according to Sampson. The report included additional data, such as higher retention rates for resident students, similar retention rates for students who received a Pell Grant and students of different genders and varying rates of retention over race and ethnicity. 

However, as Crow pointed out multiple times, much of the presentation included data combining both part-time and full-time students, meaning more analysis, supposedly provided in the physical report itself, is needed to examine how these rates may differ over various program modalities, like online school, and also diverse groups of students.

Operational and Financial Review for the UA

Robbins also presented an annual operational and financial review of Fiscal Year 2020-21 for the UA.

“I’m just humbled and blessed to be able to report on the collectiveness of the 60,000 members and 300,000 alumni for this great university,” Robbins said.

After reading the UA’s land acknowledgement statement, Robbins noted that the number of students (46,932), research expenditures and one-year retention rate (85.5% for the fall 2019 entering cohort) have all increased. 

The number of employees (down 2.6% for faculty), degrees awarded (down by 2.7% to 10,847) and tuition revenue (down by 3.7% to $620 million) have all decreased. Robbins attributed the decreases to the challenges of the pandemic and economic downturn. 

Robbins said the UA was in the top 20 for both enrollment and research expenditures, holding number 97 among national universities, and was recently added as No. 16 to Forbes “America’s Best Large Employers” out of 500. He also noted an increase in diversity and percentage of students with higher high school GPAs entering the UA. 

“The story here is that the University of Arizona is attracting and admitting a huge number of students, becoming more inclusive for everyone, while also having high achieving students choosing us,” Robbins said. 

Robbins also said the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities was recently named UA Outstanding Member Institution of the Year, and the university’s focus to promote Hispanic and Latinx college students’ success is especially important because 26% of undergraduate students identify as Hispanic or Latinx. 

According to Robbins, UA Admissions has expanded the number of tribal affiliations offered to Native American students, including all federally and state recognized tribes. 

“We’re the only higher education institution in the country that has taken this step to acknowledge the sovereign status of different native nations,” Robbins noted. 

Robbins also recapped the UA’s COVID-19 response, including its antibody testing and “Test, Trace, Treat” strategy, initiating a COVIDWatch Arizona app, leading epidemiology research in waste-water COVID-19 testing and the UA’s weekly briefings.

RELATED: University status update: 'It’s literally a race against new infections,' as the UA aims to vaccinate students before summer

Robbins also talked about the university’s vaccine Point of Distribution, which has administered more than 160,000 doses and is up to approximately 4,000 to 5,000 doses per day. However, according to Robbins, the POD is also serving more people than there is demand in the community, which may be in part due to vaccine hesitancy.

“There is work to be done here. There is a lot of vaccine hesitancy … we’ll get through that,” Robbins said.

Robbins projected that the POD would be done probably by the end of June. 

Robbins also discussed research and development expenditures, an ABOR goal of 2025 achieved in the fiscal year 2020 and that the UA plans to invest even more into big research projects, such as OSIRIS-REX, and collaborate with big companies for the projects. 

“With the strategic initiative focused on this level of success as a backdrop, we have our next mission in the pipeline and into NASA for review,” Robbins said. 

On strategic plan initiatives, Robbins discussed making Arizona a resilient state in health, water, climate and energy. Various projects are ongoing such as hypersonics, which he described as “systems that travel and maneuver at Mach 5 or faster.” 

According to the presentation, the UA is partnering with the company Raytheon for the project.  

Another project, Center for Quantum Networks, according to Robbins, is supported by a five year, $26 million grant from the National Science Foundation. The project will be constructing the next generation of the Internet.

“[The] project places Arizona at the forefront of quantum network technologies, which are expected to transform all areas of life,” Robbins said. 

Robbins wrapped up the presentation with the “Wonder Makes Us” UA marketing campaign, which has received 500 million impressions between October 2020 and April 1, 2021. The UA has also seen an increase by 21% in applications from out of state domestic markets and an additional 4,800 out of state prospective students in the pipeline.

Student Regent Report

Student Regent Anthony Rusk said that a basic needs report would be delayed until the June ABOR meeting. The report will assess food insecurity and housing needs among students. 


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UA COVID-19 Test Tracker

Daily (5/5)
728 0 0.0%
Total (8/4)
266,090 4,347 1.6%
Includes tests since August 4, 2020
Data from https://covid19.arizona.edu/updates
Updated May 5, 2021