2/17/2010 6:04:00 AM Affordable degrees on fast track for central Arizonans NAU/Yavapai Partnership
Governor Jan Brewer, middle, with Northern Arizona University Pres. John Haeger, left, and Yavapai College Pres. Jim Horton, right, listens during a roundtable discussion Friday, Feb. 12, about the partnership between NAU, Yavapai College and the Town of Prescott Valley that will bring fast-tracked, more affordable degrees for central Arizona youth and adult students alike.
Photo courtesy Les Stukenberg
One of the first things Gov. Jan Brewer did when she took office in Jan. 2009 was to ask the state's higher education leaders to find a way to produce 50 percent more baccalaureate degrees by 2020. When she toured Yavapai College and Northern Arizona University's new joint education building at the Prescott Valley Library campus on Friday, she pronounced it a "miracle."
Brewer toured the building and conducted a series of meetings in the community, including a roundtable discussion with Prescott Valley town council and quad-city educational and business leaders. Northern Arizona University President Dr. John Haeger and Yavapai College president Dr. James Horton helped facilitate the discussion.
The joint project between the Town of Prescott Valley, Yavapai College and Northern Arizona University will allow students to tailor their studies and finish their degrees in as little as three years, at a much lower cost than a traditional university program. Haeger said the program has the potential to become one of the state's first regional universities, using existing faculty and buildings and offering structured programs in a combination of classroom and online formats.
The program, called NAU/Yavapai, expects to enroll some 100 students in fall 2010. Haeger said the dream is to bring as many as 3,000 to 5,000 students to the campus within 10 years.
Haeger said NAU and Yavapai College essentially "threw away every playbook" to create a completely new program to satisfy the changing educational goals and lifestyles of potential students.
Horton praised Town of Prescott Valley officials and businesspeople for their willingness to work with the program.
"That's really the way this partnership has worked and I think that's why we really can innovate, because from the very outset, it has been 'let's do it, let's get it going,'" he said.
Horton said the NAU/Yavapai degree programs will be "destination venues."
"They are going to be creative, they will be fast-tracked, and they are really going to meet the needs of today's student," he said.
NAU/Yavapai will offer three bachelor's degree programs in Prescott Valley this fall - Entrepreneurship, aimed at gaining expertise in new venture creations, growth and strategy, and marketing skills; Service Industry Management, comprising customer behavior, satisfaction and loyalty and related technology; and Community Development and Sustainability, encompassing regional planning, managing non-profit organizations, and helping businesses to embrace "green" practices.
"We have our eye on what this is going to look like 10 years from now, and we think the economic development potential is enormous," Haeger said.
Prescott Valley resident and former Arizona Board of Regents (the Board of Regents governs higher education in Arizona) member Doug Wall said he sees the partnership as creating an educational hub in Central Arizona, starting now with NAU/Yavapai, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott College, Northcentral University, and Yavapai College.
"Prescott Valley planned way ahead," he said. "All the infrastructure, all the amenities are here, waiting to be used."
Wall said he envisions economic growth around the universities and colleges here much the same as it happened around NAU.
"I moved to Flagstaff in 1956, and NAU had about 1,000 students. Today, the community is wrapped around NAU, and the same can happen here," he said.
Wall said it's crucial to keep tuitions as low as possible for the venture to be a success.
"If you keep it low," he said, "people will come."
Rep. Lucy Mason, who also attended the roundtable, said she was pleased with the creativity of the program.
"This will sustain the future of this area," she said.
Brewer asked Susan Johnstad, campus executive officer for NAU-Yavapai, if the university had yet begun reaching out to high school students in the Quad Cities, and what concerns they had expressed about the program.
Johnstad said the outreach will begin after the first programs are in place this fall.
"The key is to reach students in their sophomore and junior years, so they know what their options are," she said, adding that tuition
costs have been the
largest concern of students looking to get a degree.
Humboldt Unified School District Superintendent Henry Schmitt said local high schools have many students who are interested in staying in the area after graduation, and the district is eager for the outreach.
"We would like to have NAU/Yavapai partner with us and actually put counselors at our high schools and even shift down to our middle level schools to begin this whole process. I see it as a natural way for higher education to partner with HUSD," he said.
Brewer said the NAU/Yavapai venture sets an example for higher education in the state and nation.
"I had no idea," Brewer said. "I had been briefed a little bit about what was going on up here, but it's much better than I expected. You have done something that is visionary, to have the private sector, the public sector and the local government all coming together.
"It's a miracle," she said, "And that's a big word."