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State universities to hit enrollment boom


Wildcat File Photo
Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Rachael Myer
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
January 18, 1999
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UA officials are counting on several new buildings now under construction to help aid an additional 42,000 to 60,000 students predicted to attend Arizona's three public universities by the year 2020.

The enrollment increase figures were reported by consultants to the Governor's Task Force on Higher Education.

The Task Force was developed to make demographic projections about Arizona's state universities, private colleges and universities and community colleges.

Sharon Kha, University of Arizona spokeswoman, said the increase in enrollment is not a surprise to the UA.

"The U of A has been keeping its eye on the population increase for quite some time," Kha said.

The Integrated Learning Center, the new Memorial Student Union and two additional residence halls should help to alleviate demands on UA resources, she said.

"So a lot of the pain we are going through now is looking ahead to what is going to come next," Kha said.

Kha said she is also counting on the UA's night and weekend degree program to accommodate several thousand more students.

Branch campuses such as UA South in Sierra Vista, Arizona International College, Arizona State University East and West and Northern Arizona University - Yuma may also be able to accommodate more students, Kha added.

The 2020 projection states that enrollment in Arizona's public universities will increase by about 40 percent to 60 percent from the total number of students who will attend the schools next semester. The total fall 2000 enrollment for the University of Arizona, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University is 105,000.

Jim Farmer, Task Force technical adviser, said Arizona's higher education enrollment increase is because of an increase in state population.

Farmer said the enrollment projections are a low estimate because minority groups - such as blacks and Hispanics - are improving their academic performance and persistence.

The low estimate is also due to businesses supporting employees' higher education, as well as families working harder to send their children to universities.

He said a solution to the enrollment increase may be to create another large campus, focus on branch university campuses or to utilize distance learning.

"I think you'll see some suggestions emerging in May or June that will potentially affect the (Arizona legislature's) budget," said Farmer, who also works with Systems Research in Washington D.C.

He said the enrollment projections were made by studying population, historical trends and the educational process such as how many students complete their freshman year and continue.

Warren Rustand, the Task Force's chairman, said the increase can also be related to professionals moving to the state and wanting more education.

"We are going to have an increase in demand, there's no question about it," Rustand said.

He guessed that 20,000 additional students will attend the UA during the next 20 years.

Rustand said finding a solution requires taking scarce resources and space to accommodate a larger number of students.

"We mostly are just throwing a lot of ideas on the table (right now)," Rustand said.

The Task Force will develop a solution during the next several months and will report to Gov. Jane Hull in mid-October.

Saundra Taylor, vice president for campus life, said she hopes the UA won't be burdened alone with providing resources for the additional students.

"Hopefully it won't be just the burden of the U of A," Taylor said. "Hopefully the state legislature and the Governor will invest money into the university so we can accommodate that."

Kha said the UA needs to retain its professors and not focus just on the new buildings' construction.

"The buildings alone won't solve the problem," she said.

Christine Thompson, student regent, said UA students don't need to worry about the future quality of university education.

"I think the best of all this debate and discussion is that we are planning for the future," said Thompson, a UA law student. "I'm very encouraged that we are looking at it now and not waiting for the fire to get too big."

She said Arizona public universities are investigating technology delivered education - which would help to alleviate some demands on campus resources.

She added that all of Arizona needs to work together to find a solution to the enrollment increase.

The Arizona Board of Regents will receive a status report on the Task Force at their Thursday meeting in Phoenix at Arizona State University West.

The next Task Force on Higher Education meeting is Feb. 16 in Phoenix. The group will discuss the role, structure and mission of higher education.

Rachael Myer can be reached at Rachael.Myer@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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