Board pays tribute to President Cheng, Chair Penley, Student Regent Rusk; Approves UArizona coaches’ contracts, FY 2022 budgets

Board pays tribute to President Cheng, Chair Penley, Student Regent Rusk; Approves UArizona coaches’ contracts, FY 2022 budgets

June 14, 2021

Following are news briefs from the Arizona Board of Regents June 10-12 meeting. Full board materials are available here.

Board Honors NAU President Cheng with Regents Medal

In honor of President Rita Cheng’s service to Northern Arizona University, the board awarded her the Regents Medal that is reserved for individuals in recognition of their considerable accomplishments in education.

“It is a pleasure to present the Regents Medal to President Cheng who has served as president of NAU since 2014. She leaves as her legacy a stronger university that is far more attractive to prospective students with much better infrastructure, including IT. She has expanded critically needed allied health programs and recognized the NAU historical excellence in music,” said ABOR Chair Larry E. Penley. “I appreciate her leadership, especially during this past difficult year as our enterprise weathered the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. She did what many presidents failed to do. She kept the university open to students.” 

The board authorized the board chair to finalize and execute any necessary transition terms for President Cheng, including designating her as “president emerita.” President Cheng has agreed that her last day as university president will be June 13, 2021, to allow Dr. José Luis Cruz Rivera to begin his term as president on June 14, 2021.

Chair Penley read a letter from Gov. Doug Ducey to President Cheng, which read in part: “Because of your leadership, more Arizona students can access a world-class university education, regardless of location or circumstance. The university’s student body reflects the diverse population of our state and has led to a substantial increase in the number of bachelor’s degree NAU awards each year. NAU is one of the state’s major economic powerhouses, and I am thankful for your partnership these past years.”

A first-generation college and non-traditional student, President Cheng is dedicated to NAU’s mission of student access, affordability and success. Under her leadership, the university advanced in many areas, including substantially increasing research expenditures.

Retention and graduation rates have improved, contributing to the university’s reputation of excellence and benefiting these individuals as well as the state’s workforce. The number of undergraduates earning degrees has risen during her presidency while graduate degrees increased, and she led the expansion of international education at NAU.

New campus facilities constructed during President Cheng’s tenure bring state-of-the-art educational, performance and sporting opportunities to campus. She has been a champion of student athletes on and off the field and the Student Athlete Performance Center will serve students far into the future.

The new Honors College welcomed its first year of residents during the 2018-19 school year in a new building offering students the opportunity to live, study, congregate and collaborate with others while the Science and Health building features research and instructional labs, classrooms, faculty offices, lecture halls and interaction spaces.

Kitt Recital Hall adds to NAU’s excellence in music education and the Wall Aquatic Center brings one of the best high-altitude swimming facilities in the world to Flagstaff. President Emerita Cheng will transition to faculty at NAU in the W. A. Franke School of Business Department of Accountancy after serving her last day as president on June 13, 2021.

Chair Penley’s Exceptional Service During Two Terms as Chair Includes New Economy Initiative, Redesign of General Education, Pandemic Leadership

As Arizona Board of Regents Chair Larry E. Penley concludes a two-year as chair of the board this month, the board paused to reflect on his leadership.

“Chair Penley is a consummate and dedicated advocate of students and our public universities. He has contributed immensely to this board and our universities from the redesign of general education programs to outlining a prescient vision in the New Economy Initiative,” said Chair-Elect Lyndel Manson. “I am honored to follow in his footsteps as chair.”

A tireless champion of higher education, Chair Penley served two consecutive terms as board chair from 2019 – 2021.

“The breadth of your experience I think is singular in the history of the Arizona Board of Regents,” said Regent Fred DuVal “There have only been five regents who have served two terms as president. There have only been five regents who have served more than one full term. You are the only regent for whom both is true.”

Regent Ron Shoopman added, “We are a far better board because of your leadership.”

As the chief architect and visionary behind the New Economy Initiative, Chair Penley outlined a bold investment for Arizona and its citizens to meet the challenges and prepare for the opportunities of the New Economy. Chair Penley’s leadership throughout the COVID-19 pandemic provided the board and universities with direction to navigate the pandemic. Through his leadership, the board developed COVID-19 guiding principles, providing the universities with a blueprint to follow focused on the health and safety of university communities with a commitment to maintaining excellence in education and research.

He is equally dedicated to students and their success, working to raise educational attainment among Arizonans to benefit individuals and their quality of life while also contributing to the state’s workforce. Chair Penley was instrumental in redesigning general education at the universities to focus on teaching students lifelong skills – critical thinking, civil discourse, and civic knowledge and engagement.

“Chair Penley is an exceptional leader, mentor and friend. I appreciate his selfless leadership, including during one of the most challenging times for our enterprise during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ABOR Executive Director John Arnold.  “As always, Chair Penley rose to the challenge and led our board through his extraordinary intellect and wisdom that has served our enterprise exceptionally well for the past two years.”

Recognizing Stellar Performance by UArizona Women’s Basketball Head Coach

In recognition of University of Arizona Women’s Basketball Head Coach Adia Barnes’ stellar performance, including the team’s appearance during the NCAA tournament, the board approved UArizona’s request to increase her base salary through a second amended multiple-year employment agreement. 

UArizona’s Women's Basketball Team historic appearance in the 2021 NCAA Tournament included highlights such as the team making its first Elite Eight appearance, first Final Four appearance and first National Championship game appearance.

During the tournament, UArizona won over the No. 1 seed – the University of Connecticut - in the national semifinal and lost the National Championship game by one point. Additional information is available here.

New Men’s Head Basketball Coach Takes the Lead at UArizona After Board Approves Employment Agreement

After approval by the board of a multiple-year employment agreement, Tommy Lloyd is UArizona’s new head basketball coach. Lloyd will take the helm at the university after serving as assistant coach at Gonzaga University for the past 20 seasons, helping to recruit and develop 19 All-Americans and 15 West Coast Conference players of the year while contributing to five straight 30-win seasons and a pair of appearances in the National Championship game.

Lloyd is well-respected throughout college basketball, both for the performance of his teams on the court and the connection to and development of players under his leadership. During his time with Gonzaga as an assistant coach, Gonzaga posted a record of 578-109 (.841) and reached the NCAA Tournament every year, going as far as the title game twice, the Elite Eight twice and the Sweet 16 four times. During his tenure, Lloyd and Gonzaga won 19 West Coast Conference regular season titles and 15 WCC Tournament championships.

“Coach Lloyd is starting a new chapter for the UArizona men’s basketball program. Basketball is a beloved sport at the university and we look forward to Coach Lloyd taking the team to new heights of excellence both on and off the court,” said Chair Penley. More information is available here.

Board Approves University Enterprise Budgets for New Fiscal Year

The board approved fiscal year 2022 budgets for Arizona State University, NAU, UArizona and the ABOR office. However, since these budgets contain only preliminary state appropriations, the fiscal year 2022 budgets will be adjusted once state appropriations are finalized.   

The annual budget combines general purpose, designated and restricted fund budgets into a consolidated budget format that includes projected revenues and expenditures for the fiscal year for each university and the system office. The fiscal year 2022 annual budget for the universities and system office totals $6.2 billion. State general fund appropriations represent 12 percent of the total budget. The combination of state general fund and net tuition and fee revenues make up slightly over half of the total budget at approximately 53 percent.

Funding priorities for the board are the New Economy Initiative and the Arizona Promise Program. Designed to enhance the state’s future economy and workforce, the New Economy Initiative is a plan to grow the next generation of workforce talent as technology continues to transform work and jobs in mid-level positions such as sales, retail and production decline. Through the Arizona Promise Program, the board is proposing a $50 million college scholarship investment to cover tuition and fees for low-income students to increase college going and completion in Arizona. This scholarship will provide educated workers for New Economy jobs, ensuring that Arizona maintains its competitive edge.

Citing investments other states are making in education, Regent DuVal pointed out that numerous states are investing in higher education from California proposing investing $786 million to Texas adding $380 million as well as Colorado with $100 million. Among peers, Wisconsin is investing $190 million in new funds and Minnesota, $100 million.

“The game is on. The competition for the 21st century is here,” Regent DuVal said. “I hope that our colleagues and friends in the Legislature with their many priorities will realize that the universities stand at the critical juncture of whether or not we’re going to drive a competitive, higher wage economy for the state of Arizona. In order to do so, we must compete with the other states who’ve decided to do so.”

Additional information is available here.

ABOR Executive Director Arnold Details Progress Toward Board’s Promise During Report

Primary to the board’s focus is the drive to increase educational attainment in Arizona to benefit individuals and the state’s workforce. During a report to the board, ABOR Executive Director John Arnold outlined priorities for the board during the past year and detailed new and continued innovations.

Examples of the board’s work during the past year include: reforming general education curriculum; addressing student basic needs; proposing the Arizona Promise program to provide increased access for low-income students; and hiring Dr. Jose Luis Cruz Rivera for the position of president at Northern Arizona University.

Comparing Arizona with Colorado, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and the median of WICHE universities – Executive Director Arnold outlined key points on how the state stacks up against WICHE states and the nation in public higher education. 

  • Arizona is at the bottom of similar states and Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) median institutions for state funding, and the  state is ranked 49th in the U.S. for state support per capita. Arizona’s state support for public higher education per capita is $138 with the WICHE median at $299 and the U.S. at $293.
  • Arizona’s public universities far and away are growing the most quickly – ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for enrollment growth and increasing in total enrollment by 25.7 percent from 2015 to 2019 with the closest comparator the state of Utah at 4.4 percent, WICHE median at -0.6 percent and the U.S. at 1.5 percent.
  • Arizona’s public universities are excelling in freshmen retention, a telling metric indicating the likelihood of students to graduate at No. 9 in the nation. Arizona’s 2019 freshmen retention rate was 83.8 percent with Washington the next highest at 83.4 percent, WICHE median at 78.8 percent and the U.S. at 81.5 percent.
  • Arizona is also one of the fastest-growing states in research and development activity with 30.4 percent growth from 2015 to 2019 and ranked No. 34 in research and development per capita in the U.S.

Looking forward, the enterprise is continuing to focus on increasing awareness of the value of higher education and redesigning strategic goals and metrics as well as general education. A central focus of the board continues to be educational attainment for Arizona as New Economy jobs demand education past high school and lower-level jobs become increasingly scarce. It is also important to remove barriers to higher education for students and the board will focus on advancing completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) among additional priorities. 

Arizona Teachers Academy Funding Provides Increased Opportunities for Aspiring Teachers

Through the Arizona Teachers Academy, hundreds of new teachers are bringing their skills to Arizona’s classrooms. The academy offers a year-for-year tuition waiver scholarship for students who commit to teach in Arizona public schools. Today, the board approved the fiscal year 2022 budget for the academy.

The board approved a budget of $15 million for the Arizona Teachers Academy from Proposition 207 one-time dollars. Another $15 million is proposed in the preliminary state budget for the academy. Funding provides the academy with support for tuition waiver scholarships, National Board Certification support, induction services, administration and marketing.

 “Through the Arizona Teachers Academy, we are supporting growth of the teacher pipeline in our state and addressing the teacher workforce shortage. With our community college partners, the universities are bringing more highly-qualified teachers to classrooms throughout Arizona,” Chair Penley said. Additional information is available here.

Student Regent Details Basic Needs Among Students

Based on results from a recent student food and housing insecurity survey, Student Regent Rusk presented a report to the board recommending establishing a basic needs committee at each university, developing a communications plan to address these issues, tracking basic needs activities on the ABOR website and presenting an annual report from each university on addressing food and housing needs among students.

Regent Rusk’s report follows the development last year of a workgroup to examine these issues in-depth.

Results of the survey show that the majority of students at the universities are food secure, but from 10 to 27 percent of students experience low food insecurity (students reporting reduced quality or variety in their diet) and 16 to 20 percent experience very low food security (students with disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake). Students who are Native American, Hispanic, Black or two or more races are more likely to experience food insecurity, according to the survey. Results also show the majority of students are housing secure (81 to 92 percent) with 8 to 19 percent of students experiencing housing insecurity.

Housing and food insecurity are associated with lower levels of college completion rates, according to College and University Basic Needs Insecurity: A National #RealCollege Survey Report. This is concerning in Arizona where the workforce increasingly demands education past high school, but the educational attainment rate lags the nation with 29 percent of the population with a bachelor’s degree compared to the national average of 35 percent, according to the most recent census data.

“I appreciate the student regents’ focus on basic needs among our students. This is an area that adversely affects student success and is one where we can do more to help students access the resources that are available to them on our campuses and in our communities,” said Chair Penley.

Student Regent Anthony Rusk Dedicates Term to Concerns of Students at Universities

Fellow regents and university presidents thanked Student Regent Rusk for his service to the board as he concludes his two-year term.

Regent Rusk is devoted to students at the universities, and he is the primary architect behind the Food Insecurity and Housing Workgroup.

“Regent Rusk’s dedication to students and their needs is unwavering, and I appreciate his work on our board,” said Chair Penley. “Student regents’ contributions to the board are essential in providing an important link between the board and students at our universities. I sincerely thank Regent Rusk for his service to the board, our universities and especially our students.”

A student was first added to the board in a non-voting position in 1978, and the student regent was granted voting privileges during the 1989-90 term. A second, non-voting student member was added to the Arizona Board of Regents in 2000.

Regent Rusk’s service for the past year of his two-year term has included serving as the voting student regent, assistant treasurer of the board and as a member of the Finance, Capitol and Resources Committee, and Academic Affairs and Educational Attainment Committee.

Regent Rusk has served as policy director and Freshmen Class Council president for the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. He has served on the University of Arizona Faculty Senate and University Wide General Education Committee as well as the faculty governance Committee of 11 at the university. He is a Flinn Scholar and earned his degree from UArizona in philosophy, politics, economics and law, with minors in biochemistry and neuroscience.


Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 |
Julie Newberg, 602-229-2534 |