A special report for faculty, staff and students of NAU
September 5, 2008
A university on the move

Productivity, accountability part
of president's plans for progress

President John Haeger spelled out several goals that will continue Northern Arizona University's progress while dealing with a cut in the institution's overall budget.

With the objective of increasing the number of baccalaureate degrees, Haeger also called for increased productivity and accountability while raising the level of educational and research excellence and engagement with the community.

"We need to develop a system of higher education linked to K-12 and community colleges that will produce bachelor's degrees needed for our future," Haeger said. The university's concerns extend well beyond NAU into national and state issues, he said.

Haeger spelled out his goals and other NAU successes and challenges during a campus forum Thursday in front of nearly 250 people at the High Country Conference Center. The forum also was web cast to include statewide campuses.

Haeger emphasized the need for productivity and accountability in NAU's quest to reach its goals.

"We are going to be evaluated with real metrics, and we must educate more students at less cost-and faster," he said. "We will have to fundamentally change the way we do business and how we help our students."

One way, he said, is to drastically increase retention rates. "When your retention rate is only 70 percent between the freshman and sophomore year, you're not going to make progress," he said. "We have to move toward 80 to 85 percent."

The university already has a headstart with its Finish in Four Program, guaranteed tuition and its groundbreaking relationships with community colleges across Arizona.

He specifically cited the CCC2NAU program, which eases community college students' path to a baccalaureate degree by automatically enrolling them at NAU and providing other benefits.

"The notion that a student spends two years at a community college and has an 'ah-ha' moment where he might, might go to a university must change," Haeger said. "Why not just offer joint enrollment from the start. Both CCC and NAU are committed to baccalaureate degrees, and I think this program can be expanded across the state."

CCC President Leah Bornstein attended the forum and joined Haeger in praising the new CCC2NAU program. "This could become a national model for joint admissions projects," she said, adding that 50 students—double the expectation—have signed up for the program.

Haeger also pointed to the need to change student behavior, ensuring that they graduate in four years, saving money and improving university productivity.

Yet he emphasized that increases in productivity must maintain educational quality.

The university is trying to attain these goals while managing a $7.8 million budget cut. But the good news is that state funding the university received for enrollment growth totaled $6.5 million—resulting in a net budget reduction of $1.3 million.

While the budget cut is manageable, Haeger noted the university also must reinvest about $7.2 million in strategic priorities, including staffing and resource needs related to enrollment growth, targeted salary adjustments to address critical market and equity issues, faculty promotions, minimum wage increases, graduate assistant waivers and increases in utilities.

Furthermore, the university must plan for a potential mid-year budget cut of about $1.5 million.

All totaled, the university requires about $10 million to handle this year's budget cut, reinvestment needs and possible budget rescission in January.

Haeger outlined the sources of the needed funds:

  • $4 million in tuition revenue
  • $3.3 million in cuts to state budgets of non-college units and holdback of one-time allocation of operating dollars to colleges
  • $2 million from one-time use of health program funds (The university will not expend its entire allocation for expanding health professions programs in 2008-09, but these funds will need to be budgeted for the 2009-10 fiscal year.)
  • $1 million from local and auxiliary accounts (i.e., self-funded operations as Residence Life and Dining Services)

"We must keep our forward momentum," Haeger said. "The economy will come out of its slowdown, and we will come out a stronger institution."

Also during the forum, Haeger called for the campus community to lend its voice to the Solutions Through Higher Education campaign, a statewide initiative to make residents aware of the critical role higher education plays in ensuring economic prosperity for the country and its citizens.


Expect some disruption with construction

Building Q&A
The Office of Public Affairs will continually update campus on the progress of construction throughout the year. Send your questions to inside@nau.edu.

NAU is about to embark on several building renewal and new construction projects, and the campus will experience some disruption and commotion—especially when buildings and some parking lots close.

Yet the outcome promises to be well worth the inconvenience.

The Arizona Legislature’s statewide Stimulus Plan for Economic and Educational Development, funded by lottery revenues, will grant NAU the authority to build $170 million worth of construction projects for 20 cents on the dollar.

The SPEED initiative will allow NAU to move forward on several campus projects, the most significant being renovation of the Walkup Skydome and Liberal Arts building; the addition of classroom and lab space in the former Inn at NAU; the overhaul of Ardrey Auditorium; and the construction of a building for the College of Health and Human Services.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for the university to address much-needed and previously unfunded deferred maintenance and to build new academic facilities at a significant cost savings,” said NAU President John Haeger. “The SPEED initiative brings the added benefit of shoring up Arizona’s construction industry to help stimulate the state’s sagging economy.”

Haeger unveiled some of the plan’s details during a campus—wide forum Thursday in the High Country Conference Center.

However, he pointed out that the construction will impact campus and the community. “I’m aware of the strain construction will have on campus,” Haeger said. “But when it’s over we will be a much stronger, more vibrant institution.”

Work on the Skydome, which addresses safety and access issues, will necessitate closing the Dome. The work is scheduled to begin the first week of April with the Dome reopening in July.

The timing of the closure will allow university and high school athletic events to proceed as normal, but it will mean finding alternate locations for the NAU and high school commencements as well as other events.

Ardrey Auditorium will close in May and is scheduled to reopen December 2009. Several NAU and community events, including performances by the Flagstaff Symphony, temporarily will need to relocate to other venues.

Renovation on the first and second floors of the Liberal Arts building will likely begin in January, which may call for closing the building because of asbestos abatement, construction noise, and power and water outages. It is expected that the building will reopen for fall 2009 classes.

Another project, although unrelated to the SPEED initiative, will be the demolition and rebuilding of Lumberjack Stadium, scheduled to begin in July. The track will be out of commission for the public from July through August, but the field will be available for the Lumberjack soccer team. A new Lumberjack stadium will be built in the current location.

The largest of all projects will be the SPEED-financed, 120,000-square-foot health professions building, which will address the state's shortage of health-care professionals by providing new and expanded programming for students in health-related disciplines. The facility will be located south of Wall Aquatic Center and is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

At the same time, a student-financed expansion of the recreation center will add 42,600 square feet, replacing the university's 40-year-old health center with a Recreation, Health and Wellness Center, providing physical health, mental health, rehabilitation and recreational services. It also will include SPEED-financed additions for two floors of classrooms.

“Between the Lumberjack Stadium project and the building of a new health and wellness center and health professions building, the entire area from Lumberjack Stadium west to the field south of Wall Aquatic Center will be a busy construction zone,” Haeger said.

The popular field will be closed, but the university has taken steps to improve fields for recreation and intramurals.

A table showing the various active SPEED projects and the projected start and tentative completion dates can be found here. The dates and estimated costs are tentative and cannot be finalized until all the design and planning work is completed.

Campus parking also will be affected, and the university is in the process of developing options for alternative on-campus, and possibly off-campus, parking with transit service for faculty and staff.

Other active projects include the ongoing addition to the School of Communication for Distance Learning; a new roof for the North Union as well as repairs to the wiring and sprinkler systems; and utility and infrastructure upkeep.

“No doubt these major projects will be an inconvenience, but the end result will be well worth the temporary disruption,” Haeger said. “This is a rare opportunity for Northern Arizona University to make tremendous improvements to much-used buildings and to construct new buildings that will meet the needs of our students.”