AZ Board Of Regents Chair Lauds Higher Ed Budget Bill

By Terri Jo Neff

Chairman Larry E. Penley of the Arizona Board of Regents has high praise for the investment made by Gov. Doug Ducey and the State Legislature in the Fiscal Year 2022 budget passed last week which recognizes the role the state’s three public universities play in Arizona’s economic wellness.

“This spending plan invests in Arizona’s competitiveness by supporting public university instruction, research and development, especially in the key growth sectors of health care, the sciences, biomedicine and engineering,” Penley recently said. “State funding also will assist ongoing efforts by Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona to meet the needs of a growing number of Arizona students.”

The 12 members of the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) serve as the governing board for Arizona’s three public universities – Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona. The board is tasked with providing policy guidance for nearly every aspect of the university system, including capital development plans, strategic plans, and legal affairs.

The regents also set policy related to financial and human resource programs; academic and student affairs; public outreach; and the all-important student tuition, fees, and financial aid programs.

The main Higher Education budget bill, SB1825, involved more than just funding appropriations. Among other things, it requires the UA cooperative extension office to establish an Agricultural Workforce Development Program to provide incentives to food-producing agricultural organizations to hire apprentices.

“As Arizona emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, focus shifts toward ensuring our state is ready for the challenges of a New Economy increasingly built on the innovation, adaptability and skills of our workforce,” Penley said.

Another SB1825 provision allows the three state universities to offer pro bono assistance to claimants in the general stream adjudication of water rights if the claimants are small landowners and not represented by counsel.

The legislation also calls for ABOR to administer and implement a Promise Program to provide financial assistance to students in a baccalaureate degree who qualify for in-state student status, graduated from an Arizona high school with a qualifying grade point average, and meet eligibility criteria for the Federal Pell Grant.

“With the state’s initial investment in the board’s Arizona Promise Program scholarship, qualifying low-income Arizona students will have their tuition and fees paid in full to attend the Arizona public university of their choice,” Penley said. “The value of a university degree has never been higher, and this program represents our promise that cost won’t be a barrier to any deserving Arizona student.”

ABOR will take on yet another new responsibility thanks to the budget bill.  On Jan. 1, 2022, the statutory duties of the Commission for Postsecondary Education and the e Arizona Teacher Student Loan Program will be transferred to ABOR.

State law designates the governor and the superintendent of public instruction -currently Kathy Hoffman- as ex-officio ABOR members along with two student regents who serve two-year terms. The other regents serve eight-year terms after being appointed by a governor and confirmed by a majority of the 30-member state senate.

In addition to Penley, the current regents are Fred DuVal, Kathryn Hackett King, Lyndel Manson, Cecilia Mata, Bill Ridenour, Ron Shoopman, and Karrin Taylor Robson. ASU student Nikhil Dave is serving as a student regent until 2022; the second student regent seat is currently vacant, according to the ABOR website.

Next up for the ABOR is a Sept. 9 meeting of the Finance, Capital and Resources Committee as well as the Academic Affairs and Educational Attainment Committee.