The rift between the Arizona Board of Regents and the community colleges deepened Tuesday after board president Chris Herstam unveiled how a study of the proposed university redesign will be carried out.
Rufus Glasper, who presented a united front with the universities during this year’s budget negotiations, said he is disappointed the regents do not consider community colleges equal partners in higher education.
"The Maricopa community colleges are part of a comprehensive solution to the challenges facing higher education in our state," Glasper, chancellor of the Maricopa Community College District, said. "We are not merely here to provide reaction as a constituency group."
Glasper’s comments came hours after Herstam invited community colleges and other groups, including business leaders, faculty and students, to participate in the study of a proposal to redesign the university system.
The redesign, which was developed by Herstam and Arizona’s three public university presidents, would create two new regional universities to deal with enrollment growth. The board approved a feasibility study of the plan at its June 3 meeting.
"I’m really disappointed that some, hopefully just a few, community college representatives believe they’re not going to have enough input," Herstam said. "We are aggressively seeking the input from the community colleges as well as other stakeholder groups. I am disappointed that they feel the need to complain about the process."
The Regents will discuss the plan for the study when they meet Thursday in Flagstaff.
"The redesign effort will have no negative impact on community colleges in the state of Arizona," Herstam said. "We don’t ever claim to have authority over the community colleges but we always try to work with them because they are part of higher education."
Glasper and other community college officials said an invitation to speak isn’t enough. They want to be part of the decision-making process and demanded a broader policy debate on higher education in the state before the board moves forward with the study.
"The regents have put out a proposal minus the public policy framework in which to interpret it or to see what the nuances will be," said Kim Sheane, executive director of the Arizona Community College Association. "We don’t know that the (Regents’) proposal embraces the tenets of higher education as we would see it in Arizona."
Sheane said community colleges, which serve 80 percent of Arizona’s post-secondary student population, aren’t included in Herstam’s definition of higher education and expressed concern that study group wouldn’t take comment from constituency groups seriously.
Herstam countered that community colleges and other constituent groups will have ample opportunities to communicate their opinions to the working group, which will be led by Mary Jo Waits, formerly associate director of the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Herstam said he plans to ask the board to extend the deadline for public feedback on the plan to Aug. 1.
"It’s a free country and they can meet with all of the other stakeholder groups if they want," Herstam said. "We’re not going to tell stakeholder groups what to do."
Arizona Board of Regents
When: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Havasupai Room, University Union, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff
Information: (602) 229-2500 or www.abor.asu.edu