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UA South to grow under new design

KEVIN B. KLAUS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Staff director for the Arizona University System Redesign Project Mary Jo Waits presents the updated redesign plan yesterday afternoon in the Student Union Memorial Center. The new plan no longer targets creating new universities in Arizona but instead aims at expanding access and enhancing diversity.
By Anthony D. Ávila and Natasha Bhuyan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
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UA South's population could match the UA's main campus enrollment in a few years, with UA South expanding to various locations in Arizona under the new redesign proposal drafted in late February.

UA Vice President Edith Auslander, senior associate to the UA president, said at a public forum yesterday that UA South has the most potential for growth and would absorb the higher education need in southern Arizona after the UA reaches its enrollment cap of 40,000 students.

As the campus expands, UA South will also be able to collaborate with the military in the Sierra Vista community, which means service members will be able to take classes at UA South, said Dan Anderson, assistant executive director for institutional analysis for the regents.

"The first biggest factor that will drive the future of UA South is the demographic growth of the Sierra Vista area," Anderson said. "The second is the demand for high-tech experience from (the military base of) Fort Huachuca."

Adopted by the Arizona Board of Regents Feasibility and Planning Study Work Group, the new redesign plan calls for a gradual set of changes, which would restructure higher education in Arizona to accommodate the state's expected population boom.

By 2020, Arizona's population is expected to reach nearly 9 million residents, up from 5.8 million today, according to the Census Bureau Web site.

Unlike the original proposal, the new redesign scheme suggests smaller changes, such as differentiating tuition among the universities and their branch campuses, increasing state-based financial aid, enhancing diversity and expanding collaboration with community colleges.

The original plan, initiated in May, aimed to create five state universities by making Arizona State University West a freestanding institution named Central Arizona University and combining UA South with Northern Arizona University Yuma as Southern Arizona University. According to regents' reports, ASU and the UA would strengthen their focus on research, while NAU would concentrate on undergraduate education.

However, the plan was met with opposition from members of ASU West, who wanted to remain a part of the main ASU campus, and also residents of Flagstaff who feared NAU's reputation would diminish, said Mary Jo Waits, staff director for the Arizona University System Redesign Project.

Two people voiced concerns about the new redesign plan during the forum and said they feared research at certain universities would be limited.

Beth Mitchneck, a member of the Faculty Stakeholder Group from the UA, said the vague wording in the proposal failed to address the specific research missions of each university.

"Research needs to be an integral part of the university, it shouldn't just be 'allowed,'" Mitchneck said, highlighting one of the words she disapproved of.

But Waits reiterated the plan promotes research at all the universities and said the only negative feedback the redesign scheme has received is misinterpretations of the proposal.

Another aspect of the proposal addresses collaboration with community colleges, but the redesign comes at a time when members of the Arizona Legislature are also working on their own plans for higher education.

The Arizona House passed a bill last week, which would allow half of the community colleges in the state to begin offering a select number of four-year degrees, although all three state university presidents opposed the bill.

But the redesign proposal does not address the bill, HB2079, and instead encourages NAU and UA South to build on their "2+2" programs, where students attend community colleges for two years before transferring to a university.

"I've heard nothing but positive statements about '2+2,'" Waits said. "It seems to be working."

Waits said under the new plan, research at the UA would continue to grow, along with diversity and financial aid, keeping in line with President Peter Likins' vision. Regents will further discuss the redesign scheme at their April meeting.

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