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Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools

BECKY PALLACK Arizona Daily Star 8-6-11

TEMPE -- Arizona's universities are progressing with efforts to tie state funding to performance, end disparities in funding between universities, and make it easier for community college students to transfer.

The Arizona Board of Regents heard a series of progress reports Thursday. Here are the highlights:


GOAL: Switch from a state-funding model based on student enrollment to a funding model based on performance.

PROGRESS: University leaders are finalizing the details of a performance-funding model that they will present to the state Legislature in October.

They have agreed the universities should be paid a base amount, plus adjustments for things such as salaries and benefits -- or budget cuts, plus performance pay.

The performance component would be based on three-year averages of the number of degrees awarded, the number of classes students complete and the amount of external research and public-service funding. The weight of each piece is yet to be decided, but university leaders will design next year's budgets based on this plan.


GOAL: Ask the state to appropriate the same amount of per-student funding at each of the three universities.

PROGRESS: Using calculations that account for the University of Arizona's unique land-grant responsibilities and medical schools, the UA receives $6,322 per student, while Northern Arizona University receives $729 less per student and Arizona State University receives $838 less, a Board of Regents report shows.

NAU President John Haeger presented a plan that would eliminate the funding disparity over at least five years by increasing the per-student funds at NAU and ASU to the UA level.

Several regents warned that state lawmakers could be inclined to cut the UA and NAU to bring per-student funding to the lowest common denominator.


GOAL: Streamline the process for community-college students transferring to universities.

PROGRESS: Thousands of community-college students are taking part in structured programs, called pathways, that give students a specific set of classes to take for guaranteed admission to an Arizona university. Some are jointly admitted to both schools. Many new pathways are in the works.

Arizona State University Provost Betty Capaldi said the structured nature of the programs saves students money because they don't take classes that won't count toward a degree. Transfer students who complete an associate's degree at a community college are more successful at ASU than students who transfer in with fewer credits, she added.


GOAL: Accelerate and enhance the general education curriculum.

PROGRESS: ASU redesigned its remedial math classes to include self-paced, gamelike software that teaches and tests students' math skills. Capaldi said it has saved $850,000 a year.

The UA has a pilot program to pair English composition classes with librarians to make sure students have good research skills in the age of instant information, said UA interim provost Jacqueline Mok.

Contact reporter Becky Pallack at or (520) 807-8012.

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