Office of Education

ICYMI: Flagstaff Business News: NAU President Rita Cheng: NAU Is Educating The Workforce Of Today And Tomorrow

February 21, 2017

Flagstaff Business News
Rita Cheng

Each year I lead NAU, I am more excited about the future of this university. Our growing enrollment means we are bringing outstanding education to more students, our ties to our community are stronger, and the quality of our faculty and staff is opening more opportunities than ever before.

I am hopeful this is the year we leave budget cuts behind us and move aggressively on behalf of education in Arizona. The recession put too much pressure on tuition and fees as a funding mechanism. NAU has maximized every innovation and cost-saving step we could take to push forward, even as our state support dropped by 50 percent per student.

We are pleased to see that the budget proposal from Governor Doug Ducey has set a bold vision for education in Arizona. I look forward to turning that vision into opportunities for Arizona families and our economy.

We know that education is not a partisan issue. Leaders of both political parties – and citizens across Arizona – recognize that our state universities are key contributors to our economy. To compete in an increasingly educated global market, and to pursue research and opportunities for our students, Arizona’s universities need a partnership with the state that provides funding stability and is focused on two key areas: Arizona students and capital infrastructure. That’s it, we will do the rest!

For a second year, Governor Ducey has recommended modest investments in a new funding model that splits the costs of Arizona resident tuition 50-50 between the state and tuition dollars. It relieves pressure on student costs, and provides certainty for our students and their families. These ongoing operating dollars ensure that NAU reflects the same personalized student experience while we continue to expand the number of students we serve.

This is especially important because Arizona’s students are increasingly choosing NAU for their future. This past fall, we saw a larger year-to-year increase in Arizona resident student enrollment than either of our two sister universities. NAU’s solid reputation and student-centered focus continue to attract bright minds from across the state.

The governor has also provided a bold initiative to redirect the sales taxes paid by universities into our own infrastructure and deferred maintenance needs. The last time a discussion like this was successful was in 2008, and university facilities across the state – including buildings on the Flagstaff campus and our downtown Phoenix campus – provide clear evidence of the success of that investment. This initiative will enable NAU to invest in much-needed facility repairs as well as additional lab and classroom space, which is critical to both our student experience and to our success in obtaining external grants to fund new discoveries.

NAU has consistently been wise with our resources. We will continue to seek areas where we can innovate and consolidate to save costs. But years of budget cuts and the total loss to NAU of $55 million from the state has placed too much pressure on tuition as a funding source. We have exhausted other options, and it is time for a change. It is time to renew the partnership between Arizona and its outstanding state universities.

Please help us! We need you to tell your stories about NAU – to share with state leaders the impact from your time as a Lumberjack, or how NAU’s critical role in the Flagstaff community has benefited our region.

Our vision for the future of NAU is built on a foundation that has made us strong thus far. We will educate and inspire, focusing on the student experience as we train a workforce for the jobs of today and tomorrow. Join our vision for the future, and let’s work together to pursue it!

Read the op-ed here.

For more information or assistance, contact Governor Ducey's press office: (602) 542-1342.

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