Arizona Board of Regents

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The Arizona Board of Regents oversees the state’s universities. Hear what Regent leadership has to say about a bill to abolish the board.

Ted Simons: The Arizona board of regents oversees the state's public universities. And as a matter of full disclosure, it also holds the license for this public television station. That said, state lawmakers are considering a bill to abolish the board. Here to talk about that and discuss an upcoming work session to find out how budget cuts will impact state universities are board chairman regent Anne Mariucci, and vice chairman regent Fred Duval. Good to see you back here. Let's talk about this bill. Let's start on the bill to abolish the board of regents. Your thoughts?

Anne Mariucci: Well, my understanding from the senator's comments are that he believes that this will instill more competition between the Universities. That is very much lost on me. I am all for competition. But if you get the three universities competing against each other, that's a zero sum game, and in a zero sum game, there's winners and losers. So let's talk about competition, but let's compete as a state against absolute measures of performance, which is what our mission is now at the board. Let's compete around degree production, cost per degree production, retention rates and so forth. And my colleague Fred has a significant amount of experience in the history of this, and in his knowledge about what's happening in other states. And I think his report from the front lines are pretty insightful.

Fred Duval: I appreciate that. This is to some extent sort after treatment that does haven't a symptom. The symptom has gone away. We now have a robust array of competition in our relationships with the community colleges, there are multiple pathways that students have currently to choose different pathways towards their degree. So the competition issue really is sort of dated. But it is interesting, I used to staff in the governor's office back in the '70s and '80s the board of regents, at a time when the regents were specifically selected to protect their individual institutions. Somebody from Tucson, somebody from Phoenix, somebody from Flagstaff. You have research at NAU as an accommodation to a political log rolling kind after deal. You've got a law school at ASU, as an accommodation to the medical school going to Tucson. And what you had was a board that protected institution by making sure everybody gets everything. It's exactly the opposite of I think the direction the senator wants to go. And to -- we just came back from the national governors' conference where this was a huge topic. Governor Gregoire of Washington state has a centralized ward with the community colleges, not with the Universities and says look I can't get the streamlining and efficiency that I need in my list unless I have one board so we're moving in the wrong direction.

Ted Simons: When the senator says this bill would give more autonomy to the universities, more of a way to have their own identity, more stability, more flexibility, you say --

Anne Mariucci: It may give more autonomy, but is that a good thing? Is autonomy a good thing when it's a means to build redundancy, duplication of effort, and introduce a whole other layer and dimension of cost into a system where I think we universally agree we need to take cost out of the system, not build cost into the system.

Ted Simons: So the -- the idea of the -- getting a board of trustees for each University?

Fred Duval: It will be political log rolling. It will sort of be like earmarks in Washington, DC. If you get yours, I get mine, nobody moves until everybody is happy, and it is a pathway towards redundancy at a time when the board is really working overtime squeeze out redundancy it becomes as efficient as possible. Integrate the system into a more productive --

Anne Mariucci: When you look across the country, there are some models where this actually does work. But it happens after years and years of clearly articulated mission differentiation between the institutions. So that when there was a central governing board, they painstakingly created nonduplicative mission and programs and centers of excellence at each place, and rooted out all the overlap. We are not there at that point. Yes just starting with our enterprise initiative that level of activity. It would be far premature, and furthermore, the bill as we understand it provides for no central coordinating effort or organization sitting on top of those independent boards, and I do understand that every state in which it is successful with separate boards does have an overlaying coordinating effort.

Ted Simons: To that end, apparently the bill does call for something along the lines of benchmarks that a legislative oversight would look to see that the Universities would somehow accomplish, I don't know exactly how the metrics would be explained, but the idea of more legislative oversight for state Universities. Your thoughts?

Fred Duval: Well, the reasons are in the constitution for a reason. The founders of the of our state thought it was important that there be people with long-terms that are not caught up in politics to set out a long-term strategic plan for the state of Arizona. We've gone about setting up some very tough outcome oriented benchmarks around productivity, around transfer rates, around retention. All of the kind of things that the senate is talking about. And I think the more they learn about the benchmarks and the metrics that we're holding our presidents accountable for earthquake I think the more they may realize we're really on the same pathway.

Ted Simons: I want to get to this work session and the ideas that might flow from this. Obviously there's something to be looked at here of 170 million dollars in cuts down the pipe. Before we do that, for folks who don't know what the Arizona board of regents is or does, give us a definition.

Anne Mariucci: It's the governing body that oversees the three public Universities, Arizona state, northern Arizona, and University of Arizona. The presidents report to the board of regents, the board of regents technically owns the assets, the hard physical assets of the Universities. We set tuition, and we make broad policy decisions around every aspect of strategy and operations.

Ted Simons: OK.

Anne Mariucci: It's a really a full-fledged board of directors.

Ted Simons: Let's get now to the work session and what you're going to look at. I've heard unprecedent and watershed and all sorts of things, I know that there are implications of $170 million in cuts occur, what are you going to look at? What are priorities, what's going to be focused on?

Anne Mariucci: We're going to look at everything. In order to look at everything, we've got to have time, and engagement across all levels and all people to throw the issue on the table, talk about it, carefully, thoroughly, all the voices are heard. And we needed a special day to do that. So this is an unprecedented meeting of the board of regents to discuss something of this magnitude. We have asked each of the three Universities to come forward with a variety of scenarios with an emphasis on how do you operate, preserving quality, at a lower level of investment that rolls up to this $170 million? We have instructed the presidents that tuition increases are a solution of last resort. Not a solution of first resort. So that means we've got to look at many many different ideas around cost savings, extracting deficiencies, eliminating redundancies at the University level and then one University to the next. Which then makes the case for why it's great to have a central governing board, because we can actually sit and ask that question, do we really need three engineering schools? Can we afford to have three engineering schools in an environment like this? If we agree we can't, we have the ability to do something about it.

Ted Simons: And I was going to ask about that. The idea of cutting colleges, cutting underperforming programs, of cutting schools. That's a big move on the table?

Fred Duval: Everything is on the table, because these are dramatic cuts. It's important to have the multiyear perspective. We've already taken $230 million out of the system. It's a lot hard tore lose 10 more pounds if you're thin than if you're fat. We've really trimmed it down, so a lot of the obvious things, not so obvious things have already taken place. So we are now kind of down to really hard choices and how it is that we preserve a system that hopefully in the years to come when the economy is better can grow again. And do that in a fashion that's not too destructive to our mission, which is making Arizona more competitive in the 21st century.

Ted Simons: Are there other institutions, you preferred to this earlier, that other states have certain dynamics that you might have to look at, but are there certain states right now similar to ours who are getting maybe better results or something, getting results would you like to see here in Arizona? Anyone we can learn from?

Anne Mariucci: Well we're already one of the most efficient from a cost standpoint of producing degrees, states in the United States that exists of public systems. Because we have head among the lowest levels of state funding per student. And we've been such a rapidly growing state. So, yes, we're always looking at what's innovative in other states, but Fred told me 15 minutes ago we just got back from the national governors' conference and Arizona and Tennessee were the talk of the town in terms of who was doing the most innovative work around accelerating low-cost options, different pathways for different students to pay different price points depending on the kind of expwrik mortar experience they get going to college. And that's something that there's a lot of talk that we're not doing enough, we're telling our presidents. We've got to do more faster, yet on a national level we're recognized as a leader.

Fred Duval: And Ted that's on the productivity side on the qualitative side it's important to make the point. A lot of discussion in Washington, the governors' meeting about the Boeing contract. Washington's governor said the reason Boeing chose Washington, we have a commitment to producing 11,000 engineers by 2020. That's a permanent game-changer for the state of Washington. So we have to remember what this is really about.

Ted Simons: We've got about 30 seconds left. Everything from aims scholarships, when you say everything is on the table, financial aid, reform, aims scholarship reform, tuition hikes, maybe a moratorium on capitol expenditures. All of this stuff is going to be considered.

Fred Duval: Welcome to our world.

Ted Simons: OK. So we'll see how long before we know what has been considered winds up as policy?

Anne Mariucci: Over the next month, because then we have our tuition hearings at the end of the month, and in April we have our decisive vote on tuition.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good to have both of you here. Thanks for joining us.

Anne Mariucci: Thank you, Ted.

Anne Mariucci: Chairman, Arizona Board of Regents; Fred DuVal:Vice Chairman, Arizona Board of Regents;

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