Photography exhibition: "Explorations"

Rich Amada
March 19, 1999

University and community college presidents got more time to present the state of higher education to the Governor's Task Force on Higher Education, after one of the task force members threatened to resign Feb. 17.

Task force member Donald Ulrich, who is also a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, said the task force had devoted its energies to process over substance. ABOR is the state university system governing body, and is also appointed by the governor.

Gov. Jane D. Hull appointed the task force in October 1999 to plan Arizona's higher education needs for the next 20 years. Members were appointed from the universities, community colleges, the governing boards of both and various Arizona businesses.

"If it's going to continue this way, then I'm not interested in being part of this task force," Ulrich said. "I know that sounds a bit harsh."

Ulrich said he was frustrated by the lack of time given to the current state of higher education, a step he said was necessary for the task force to understand the complexity of issues facing higher education.

"I don't think there is anyone outside of the academics who really understand these issues," he said.

Kathryn Munro, of the Tahoma Fund, agreed that task force members needed to understand the current situation.

Warren Rustand, the chair of the task force, said he understood the frustrations of members and that the group was trying to use process to get through to the substance. He asked the group to allow extended time for the community colleges and universities to
present major issues.

President Likins submitted written testimony, but his oral remarks were more forceful.

Likins said the task force was very important to the universities as a way of making clear certain priorities. He said, "The long-term trends are disastrous for the people of the state." He said in a knowledge economy the best faculty are simply worth more. As a result the University of Arizona is losing faculty. "We are denying that that marketplace exists in Arizona," he said. And unless the state realizes that, we will be in irreversible decline. "The opportunities are so incredibly rich, " he said. "That's what's so darn frustrating." And he said the issue was wider than the state of universities. "I don't need to speak about our needs. I speak about the needs of the people of Arizona. The threats are deep and real.

"The tragedy will not be only to the University of Arizona, Arizona State and Northern Arizona University, but it will be to our society at large," Likins said.

He said that the state rightly predicted years ago that planned growth clusters were the way to speed economic development. The state set priorities, "but then nothing happened."

ASU President Lattie Coor agreed, saying that regardless of the financial challenge to the state, Arizona has had to be forced by outside forces to change. He said, whether the issue was school funding, health care or prison funding, the state had never adapted to change by planning.

Coor laid out basic facts about Arizona's university system for the task force:

  • Arizona is a low tuition, low financial aid state
  • Education in Arizona is a regulated industry in an increasingly unregulated environment
  • Enrollment is expected to grow by 50 percent in the next 20 years
  • The level of state support per student is about half of our peer institutions
  • Faculty salaries fall below 50 percent of our peers

NAU President Clara Lovett said there is a design in the state to accommodate future growth, both with multiple campuses and two-plus-two partnerships with community colleges. But, she said, the design is waiting for state support. She also submitted written testimony. Executive director of the board of regents Linda Blessing said that to organize requests to staff, she could identify four areas in which the task force members indicated they wanted more information in future meetings.

The areas she identified:

  • The use of technology
  • Access to higher education
  • Benchmarking against other states
  • Best practices within Arizona

The next task force meeting is April 12. You can visit their web site @


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