By Wildcat Opinions Board
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday September 30, 2002
Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part editorial series on the new "Changing Directions" and "Focused Excellence" plans set being considered by the Arizona Board of Regents and UA administration.
Faced with an explosion of in-state applicants and the promise of more state budget cuts, Arizona universities have had to make a decision: Do they sit cringing in fear, hoping the Legislature will answer their pleas for help, or do they take fate into their own hands?
Fortunately, UA President Peter Likins, NAU President John Haeger and ASU President Michael Crow decided to think outside the box and on Thursday presented the Arizona Board of Regents with the beginnings of a plan to implement their own tuition rates, admission standards and curriculum. Dubbed "Changing Directions," the plan would free the universities to officially develop the unique strengths and character that each of them have already established by custom.
Presently, by the will of the regents, UA and ASU have the same tuition and admission standards. But under the plan, the UA would become more selective in admissions, increase tuition and emphasize scientific research; ASU would accommodate the state's population boom and grow to 65,000 students across its three campuses; and NAU would stress a liberal-arts curriculum and offer classes statewide through the Internet and TV.
By adopting more of a free-market approach to education, student demand would limit unnecessary duplication among the three universities. The universities do, however, have an academic obligation to provide a well-rounded universal education. This will require appropriate duplication in liberal arts and other general education courses. But taxpayers and private donors would be less likely to pay twice for monumentally expensive undertakings like a second medical school.
"Changing Directions" marks a positive shift in the role of the university presidents by giving them more policy-making autonomy. As long as three universities define their roles according to their own strengths, they will avoid unnecessary spending and be able to focus more on achieving excellence.