Severe budget reductions compelled Northern Arizona University to redefine itself at all levels, which led to a stronger focus on student success and fruitful partnerships, NAU President John Haeger told legislators on Wednesday.
“The last two or three years have been extremely difficult, but we have survived the recession and in some ways are stronger than in 2008,” Haeger told the state House Committee on Higher Education. “We are financially stable … but have squeezed the university as much as we can.”
NAU endured layoffs, furloughs, buyouts and reductions to benefits during difficult budget years. To avoid further cuts, NAU has turned to partnerships and technology to excel. .
“Education remains our primary mission, but we have other missions, too, especially in northern Arizona,” Haeger said, citing economic development. Examples include the Economic Collaborative of Northern Arizona, the Drury Hotel, the High Country Conference Center, the 1899 Bar & Grill, new privately financed residence halls and NAU’s bookstore, operated by Follett’s.
Educational partnerships include NAU’s health programs in the downtown Phoenix medical center and relationships with nearly every community college in Arizona. “Community colleges are the key to getting more baccalaureates for Arizona citizens,” he said.
NAU has long been in the forefront of using technology to deliver courses and now is integrating technology into other areas to increase student success.
The president cited NAU’s new math emporium initiative that would radically change the way freshman math is taught. Based on Virginia Tech’s model, the math emporium model has already demonstrated a decrease in D’s, F’s and withdrawals for freshmen, lowering a major barrier to retention.
“Our retention rate is about 70 percent, just like our peers,” Haeger said. “But that’s no longer a good answer. We have to be much better than our peers.
“The game changer for the university in the future is technology,” Haeger said, adding that universities can deliver high-quality education to more students for less money.
Haeger voiced similar sentiments on Channel 8’s Arizona Horizon on Tuesday.