February 24, 2005
A committee working on the reorganization of the state’s public university system agreed Wednesday to a plan that will be sent out for public input and then on to the Arizona Board of Regents.
Ending nine months of study, the 18-member group voted unanimously for a proposal that promises to absorb an estimated 60,000-student increase over the next 15 years while imposing high standards and public accountability.
"The new options will increase access to higher education in Arizona, and that was the goal," said Chris Herstam, a regent who was part of the study group.
The plan calls for Arizona State University in Tempe and the University of Arizona in Tucson to focus on advanced degree studies and beef up their research facilities. ASU East, ASU West and the proposed ASU campus in downtown Phoenix also would include research in their missions, but the plan doesn’t specify how much of a role research will play on those campuses.
Northern Arizona University and UA’s south campus in Sierra Vista would focus on undergraduate education and begin offering programs statewide in conjunction with community colleges.
The proposal now will get a public airing. Meetings are scheduled for March 8 at ASU in Tempe, March 9 at UA in Tucson and March 10 in Phoenix. Officials said more are possible.
The committee is scheduled to reconvene March 29 and vote on whether to send the proposal to the regents.
At Wednesday’s meeting, Herstam told the group the lawmakers who oversee the higher education committees in the Legislature had been briefed on the plan.
But Sen. Linda Gray, RGlendale, disagreed. "That’s a lie," she said.
She received an e-mail late Wednesday — but that hardly counts as a briefing, said Gray, who added she hadn’t even been told of the committee meeting.
The purpose of the restructuring is to handle growth. The regents and the three university presidents proposed a plan last year that sparked wide dissent and drew nearly two dozen alternative proposals.