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Wednesday May 9, 2001

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Regents wrap up another year

By Katie Clark

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Prop 301, online university seen as significant by board

After a year filled with agenda items that made a significant impact on the UA, the Arizona Board of Regents agreed the most significant move was the approval of the Proposition 301 funds.

"It's tremendously exciting," said Regent Judy Gignac.

The voter-approved initiative, which increased Arizona's sales tax by 0.6 percent for education, will bring in an estimated $45 to $50 million to the University of Arizona.

"It's exciting because the university has never had a dedicated funding source before," Gignac said.

"This brand-new funding stream will ensure the significant benefit of all Arizona students from kindergarten through the university," agreed Regent Gary Stuart.

The money - which will begin to filtrate into the university in August - will be used primarily for information technology, biotechnology, and work for development, as specified by Gov. Jane Hull's task force.

Student Regent Mary Echeverria said the most exciting thing about the Prop. 301 budget plans was the fact that everyone worked together.

"By far, the allocation of the 301 monies (was the most significant because it) came out of a process that had the universities and the board working together like never before," she said.

Regent Jack Jewett agreed.

"The collaborative approach led by the UA, (Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University) provosts was very strong and will have a profound impact on all of Arizona," he said.

Echeverria also said she is enthusiastic about the Arizona Regents University (ARU) - a collaborative online university between UA, ASU, NAU, and Arizona's community colleges - where students can get their undergraduate and graduate degrees without having to set foot on a campus.

Gignac said she is also excited about ARU, even though the Board is just laying the foundations for the project.

"We've only just begun," she said. "There is a lot that has to be done, but it's a good beginning."

Gignac said she is looking forward to the impact ARU will have on Arizona's three universities and Arizona's community colleges.

"It has the potential to make huge changes between the three universities and the community colleges," she said.

Another significant event during the September ABOR meeting was the adoption of a recommended revision to the Board's policy of learner-centered education.

"We wanted it to reflect learning as a high priority," said Gignac.

Gignac said the revision will change the way classes are taught and how students are involved in getting the most out of their educational experience.

"The student becomes the center of the entire process," she said.

The regents also agreed that next year's tuition increase - which was approved at the April meeting in Flagstaff - was also significant, though some of the regents say they still have mixed feelings about the increase.

Tuition will increase by $140 and $550 for in- and out-of-state students, respectively - figures that some of the regents felt and still feel are too high.

"The aggressive in-state tuition increase will, in my judgment, have a negative effect on a substantial number of qualified prospective Arizona students in that the dream of a university education may have been taken away for financial reasons," Jewett said.

"To the extent that happens, what a shame."