August 20, 2004
FLAGSTAFF - Higher education is shortchanged in Arizona because the Board of Regents spend too much time running three state universities and not enough time formulating policy, consultants told the board Thursday at its annual retreat.
Richard Novack of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges, and William Weary of Fieldstone Consulting, based their comments on a survey of current and former board members.
"The system is getting shortchanged," Weary said.
The regents are considering a major initiative to change the alignment of the state univers ities. There are 15 proposals.
A plan by former board president Chris Hertam and the three university presidents would keep Arizona State University and the University of Arizona as research institutions, while Northern Arizona University would fall under the title of Arizona regional universities. Two new universities would be added to that group: Central Arizona University, currently ASU West, and Southern Arizona University, which would include NAUYuma and UA South.
Another plan calls for a new board to share responsibilities with the regents.
The goal is to handle growth over the next 15 years.
The discussion Thursday centered on whether the board should be restructured.
Board president Gary Stuart proposed delegating some university operating decisions so regents can focus on policy. The regents would still have say over hiring university presidents, systemwide governance issues, access, tuition, financial aid, admission standards and economic development.
The board decided to form a panel that includes ASU President Michael Crow to determine the difference between policy and operation decisions, and what operation decisions might be delegated. Stuart asked to see something at the regents’ November meeting,
Regent Ernie Calderon said it’s difficult for the board to be accountable to the state Legislature or citizens when they don’t know about major projects until they read about them in newspapers. The way things are now, university presidents bless projects and the board genuflects to them, when the buck is supposed to stop with the board under the state constitution. He suggested regents could do more if they had assistants.
Crow said the board needs to concern itself with policy, not know about every specific project the universities undertake. The regents then could devote their time to matters such as why the universities are sending thousands of students back to community colleges; why UA is ranked 100th, ASU 140th and NAU 210th out of the 240 nationally ranked universities; why Arizona has very low college-going rate; and why Arizona is underprepared for a role in research.