IMPACT Arizona

Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein examines the latest news affecting our universities and our state and reviews topics in-depth to educate the public and policy makers on pivotal higher education issues, while celebrating Arizona public universities’ contributions, including student success, research, innovation, technology transfer and more. 


Full Circle

Friday, December 15th, 2017

I testified this week at the Arizona's Legislature sunset hearing in favor of one of Arizona's longest-running and successful programs - the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE).
While legislative testimony is regular duty for me, in this case, it was a poignant moment. I proudly serve on behalf of Gov. Ducey as a WICHE commissioner. Twenty years ago, I was on the other side of the review as one of the junior auditors assigned to audit the WICHE program. It was one of my first audits at my first job in Arizona Office of the Auditor General. I guess you can say I've come full circle.
Through WICHE (pronounced "witchy"), 15 states and territories have signed an interstate compact to provide educational opportunities to students from participating states, many programs which are not otherwise available to them in their own state's public higher education system. More than 40,500 students are currently enrolled at reduced rates in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs throughout the west.
Arizona joined the compact in 1953, allowing our state to pool resources with other western states which had not yet developed extensive college networks. Although educational options after high schools have grown significantly both here and across the west since then, Arizona remains one of the largest sending and receiving states.
Arizona has continued to participate due to WICHE's terrific return on investment. Through the undergraduate exchange program alone, Arizona's public universities received $90 million in tuition revenue from students choosing Arizona for their college education. NAU is their number one destination, hosting over 5,000 students. Arizona's private institutions benefit, too. Among professional programs, Midwestern University in Glendale is the top choice, hosting over 100 students.
But the real benefits are realized by students themselves - thousands of students from Arizona have attended undergraduate, graduate and professional programs in other western states through WICHE, saving millions thanks to reduced tuition allowed through the compact. Arizona students saved $53.1 million in the past five years alone through WICHE agreements, yielding a 78-fold return on the state's investment.
The program meets important workforce needs for our state. Arizona provides stipends for students pursuing professional programs not otherwise available at Arizona's public universities. Careers that are launched through WICHE professional exchange programs include pharmacists, dentists, nurses, physician assistants, engineers and podiatrists - professionals that are often in short supply.
Best of all, Arizona has one of the highest "return home" rates for graduates in the professional programs. Approximately 83 percent return to practice in Arizona. If they don't serve at least one year for each year of support, they must repay the taxpayers, plus interest. These programs also allow our state to build its workforce and fill crucial needs, particularly in health care, without having to take on the additional costs of starting a program of their own.
Carrying this legacy as well as a passion for serving students is Louise Lynch, director of WICHE.  Louise has dedicated the past 40 years of her life to public service, 25 of which have been in this role. As we celebrate another 10 years of WICHE success, we also pay tribute to Louise. She has personally helped thousands of Arizona students achieve their educational dreams and makes the program work for everyone involved.
The contributions of our WICHE students to the lives of others and to our Arizona's economy allows our state to help other students like them.
Full circle.