A turning point - Board of Regents releases 2015-16 annual report

Monday, August 22nd, 2016

A turning point is defined as a time when a decisive change occurs, especially one with beneficial results.

No doubt, this past fiscal year marked a turning point for Arizona students and families, as we saw a $32 million reinvestment in public higher education, after years of consecutive cuts to funding, and broad, growing support for a new state funding model centered on students and their success.

But that's not all.

Last year, the Arizona Board of Regents unveiled a set of aggressive goals for 2025 and approved a new, actionable strategic plan aimed at increasing degree attainment among Arizona residents and improving the state's economy.

Leveraging the board's enhanced data analytics, the strategic plan is driven by 13 key performance metrics for student success, degree attainment, knowledge creation and impact to Arizona, and is a central part of the board's innovative approach to evolve the way Arizona defines, operates and sustains its public university system. (Read more about the enterprise approach.)

And to top it all off, last year our public universities generated $11.1 billion in total economic impact.

Hot off the presses, the 2015-16 annual report is both a reflection and a celebration of all we accomplished last year. By instituting a new kind of annual report - one that is digital, robust and comprehensive - it is my hope that the tremendous achievements on behalf of our universities and, most critically, our students will be communicated more broadly and shared among the very communities that helped bring these achievements to fruition.

You will find this year's report to be media-rich and mobile-friendly with links to a wide range of report data, but most importantly, you will find a compelling narrative about what happens when communities and leaders come together to promote, advance and fight for student success.

An affordable and quality education is foremost on our minds, and our new funding model, which prioritizes state dollars to support the education of Arizona resident students, received broad support statewide from business and community groups, as well as Gov. Ducey and Arizona students themselves.

Support for public universities has never been more critical. While there are no guarantees for the future of our public universities, here in Arizona we know that access to them has never been more important, which is why we have slowed the rate of tuition increases and continue to boast one of the lowest national averages for student loan debt.

With enrollment on the rise, growing faster than any state in the nation, demand for a postsecondary degree from one of Arizona's public universities is stronger than ever. In fact, Arizona is just one of four U.S. states that continue to attract new students.

In a growing state, quality must follow scale - it is not a trade-off. Notable is the fact that our public universities have programs that consistently rank in the top tiers of their fields - proving that quality and scale can, and do, co-exist at Arizona's public universities.

As we begin the 2016-17 academic and the fiscal year is underway, it is worth taking a moment to look back at a year that changed the trajectory of public education in Arizona for the better - a turning point that has set us up to reach greater heights in the year ahead.