by Vern Lamplot
UA News Services
Developers of an online web site listing technology-delivered courses for all three universities unveiled the first phase of Arizona Regents University at http://www.azdistancelearning.org at the June 30 regents meeting in Flagstaff. Courses offered through the site will be delivered through the Internet, two-way interactive television, satellite links, cable television, CD-ROM, video and correspondence.
Courses through the web site will begin this fall, according to regents material. Technology-delivered courses increased 14 percent last year over the previous year for the three universities.
During the next phase, universities will develop additional degree programs in high-demand professional areas. The web site will add listings for courses from the state's community colleges. The universities will define evaluation for new programs and study the results after two years.
Students enrolling online will need to apply for admission to the university offering the course. Students will be able to simultaneously enroll in more than one of the state universities.
President Likins said that many of the students are resident to campus. He asked the presenters what the mix was.
Nationally, the numbers are 70 percent resident students to 30 percent students outside of campus, said Fred Hurst, dean of statewide programs at Northern Arizona University and a member of the workgroup.
At NAU, he said, the number was closer to 60 percent on campus to 40 percent distance learning.
"That doesn't surprise me, but I suspect it may surprise some members of the Governor's Task Force on Higher Education, and maybe even some regents," Likins said.
He added the universities were not specifically providing "distance learning, but in fact electronically mediated learning."
Members also narrowly approved a list of carriers for the regents optional retirement program (ORP) that affects mostly faculty. VALIC, TIAA-CREF, and Fidelity - -three current carriers for ORP -- will continue, but AETNA, a fourth carrier, can only serve its current clients, following a recommendation of retirement committee.
One new carrier, Vanguard Group, was added.
But several regents made it clear they didn't like the state's request for proposal (RFP) process. ORP allows faculty and administrators to buy annuity and mutual fund benefits from carriers for retirement. The board is required to approve the companies that provide the service through a competitive RFP under the state's procurement system.
That's the problem, Board President Don Ulrich said. He objected to the dropping of AETNA because he said although the company had lived up to its obligations under the contract with the state, it was dropped only because it cost more.
Regent Gary Stuart said he had heard from AETNA clients about dropping the company.
"We're second-guessing these employees," he said. "I, for one, am uncomfortable with the process." Regents' attorney Joel Sideman said under the statute, the board was required to act in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of university employees.
The motion passed four to three.
In other regent action, the board:
- approved project initiation for expansion of the Meinel Optical Sciences Center. The 28,000 square foot addition will cost $17.2 million from academic revenue bonds.
- approved project initiation for a Sixth Street parking structure and office space. The structure will create an additional 1,750 parking spaces for permit holders and visitors, plus office space for UA Parking and Transportation. Estimated cost for the project is $17 million and will be paid from parking revenues.
- approved a $500,000 increase in the cost of the new Strategic Alternative Learning Technologies Center because of the actual bid price. The gift-funded building received project approval in April.
- approved the sale of certificates of participation for a variety of campus projects totaling $32 .9 million. The projects include the Mount Graham power line, prepayment of a software site license with Oracle Corp. and the Sixth Street parking structure.
- approved project initiation for a family housing project that would provide about 150 units as a replacement for Christopher City. Joel Valdez, senior vice president for finance, said the UA would send out a request for proposal to consider a number of development options. The options include a new apartment complex at Christopher City; acquire property in another location and build new buildings or acquire and renovate another space and sell the Christopher City property. The UA is expected to choose an option sometime this fall.