Every day, Northern Arizona University values our opportunities to connect students with the countless possibilities that higher education provides. We do this in many ways – from high-quality degree programs that prepare our Lumberjacks for the jobs of tomorrow to the many locations we offer degrees online and around the state.
Our tuition-setting process is another way we carefully provide access to an increasing number of students. It is not an easy process – indeed, it is one of the most difficult and detailed discussions we have all year – but it is an important one. Through months of dialogue and analysis, we ensure that we balance our responsibility to current students with affordable, accessible options for those who will choose to start their education at NAU. We include our students throughout the process, and we rely on their insights to direct our priorities.
The NAU tuition plan that was approved by ABOR last month was built with our top priority in mind: the success of our students. Whether they are Lumberjacks now or will choose us in the future, we prioritized them. This tuition plan carries the NAU Pledge Program into its second decade, providing certainty for our students and their families by guaranteeing a tuition rate for our incoming Flagstaff mountain campus students for four years. The Pledge Program is an important promise we made to our students, and a promise we prioritize each year.
The tuition plan includes financial aid for our students, and avoids cuts to the faculty, staff and infrastructure we need to continue to provide a student-centered NAU experience. It will grow research programs that connect our graduate and undergraduate students to hands-on experience and discovery, and it will hold the line on class and program fee increases for the third year in a row – a trend that sets us apart from many other universities across the country. In three years, we have eliminated more than 300 class fees and reduced the rate of another 300 fees. We enhanced transparency in our fee-setting process so our students know how fees directly enhance their experience and their academic program – like the fees for three undergraduate and three graduate programs. These fees provide resources to support students in several high-cost programs without impacting other students.
Because we know that our athletic programs serve all our Lumberjacks and are an essential part of a competitive university, we established an athletics fee that will fund enhancements to facilities, strengthen the competitiveness of our D1 teams and connect our students to each other and to our community.
The statewide discussion about the cost of tuition will not end with the adoption of the new tuition plan, and that is a good thing. As a university – and as a state – we need to continue to evaluate the need for new investments in our students and the economic impact our university offers all of Arizona. We need a stronger partnership with state leaders, and we need to continue to enhance our partnerships with community colleges and other entities that share our commitment to educational attainment.
At NAU, we know the power of education and the doors it can open. We know that education can fuel a workforce that will overcome obstacles and find answers to questions we may not even know yet. We know the possibilities, but we also face the realities of providing those possibilities – in a real way, in a real world. We are grateful for the support and engagement of our students and our community as NAU provides accessible, affordable education – whenever and wherever our students need it. QCBN
By Rita Cheng
Rita Cheng is the president of Northern Arizona University.