Report: Arizona’s Public Universities save millions through cost efficiency measures

Photo of students walking on Palm Walk at ASU with palm trees lining both sides of the path

Report: Arizona’s Public Universities save millions through cost efficiency measures

August 26, 2021

Arizona’s public universities continue a stringent focus on reducing and containing costs while identifying innovative opportunities for savings, resulting in millions of dollars of cost efficiencies in fiscal year 2021.

Today, the board approved the Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Cost Containment Report, which also provides information on nontraditional or lower-cost degree options at each university, as well as  historical data on tuition and mandatory fees; average on-campus housing and meal plan fees; number of full-time employees and salaries of university employees; and allocation of faculty resources at each university.

“Our universities utilize innovation, technology and efficiency measures to realize significant cost savings. This entrepreneurial spirit and attention to costs ensures funds are allocated effectively, which was more challenging this past year as the universities dealt with the pandemic. I’m proud of our universities’ fiscal stewardship during a difficult year,” said ABOR Chair Lyndel Manson.

Cost savings measures highlighted in the report include:

Arizona State University

  • ASU’s University Technology Office achieved $3.1 million of cost savings and avoidance through competitive bidding, price negotiations, rightsizing and consolidation of software and hardware, and cloud cost optimization in fiscal year 2021.
  •  Since fiscal year 2008, ASU has refinanced a significant portion of its outstanding debt, resulting in a net present value savings (in fiscal year 2021 dollars) of $123.2 million over the lives of the bonds.

Northern Arizona University

  • NAU took advantage of low interest rates and issued $13.5 million of refunding bonds at a 2.05 percent coupon rate in November 2020 and $7.8 million of interest only refunding bonds in May of 2021, resulting in savings of $20 million in 2021.
  • Infrastructure investments and debt service avoided on residence halls built by third-party partners resulted in a $13 million estimated impact.

University of Arizona

  • During fiscal year 2008 to fiscal year 2021, a combined total of 26 series of system revenue bonds, SPEED revenue bonds and certificates of participation were issued to refinance outstanding debt for an estimated savings of $119.3 million.
  • Implementation of energy efficiency programs including metering improvements, software upgrades to the chilled water system, upgrades to the HVAC systems, enhancements to the thermal ice storage production and utility contract renegotiations for lower usage rates. These actions have provided over $1 million in purchased utility cost savings for fiscal year 2021 as compared to fiscal year 2019.

Lower Cost Degree Options

While the majority of students remain on the universities’ main campuses in a traditional program of study, each university continues to provide opportunities to deliver four-year degree options in localities that are geographically more convenient and in customized pathways that allow students to complete both undergraduate and graduate degrees in an accelerated time frame. Many of these programs are offered in partnership with the community college system, offering students hundreds of degree options through innovative programs including:

ASU’s 75/45 Pathways

  • ASU offers degree programs in which students can transfer in up to 75 credits from their community college, including the RN to BSN program and the BA in Organizational Leadership.

2NAU including 90/30 Programs

  • 2NAU offers community college students interested in completing a bachelor’s degree at NAU seamless and personalized transfer guidance. The 90/30 lower cost option allows 90 credits to be earned at the community college and transferred toward an NAU bachelor’s degree.

UArizona Bridge and 75/45 Pathways

  • The UArizona Bridge program is a partnership between all Arizona community colleges and UArizona, providing a clear path to pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Special attention has been paid to AAS to BAS pathways, identifying pathways for every AAS in the state to a UArizona BAS program. This allows students to transfer 75 units from the community college and further reduces the costs of the four-year degree program to increase transfer access to UArizona.

And, dozens of four-year degrees are offered that can be completed on community colleges campuses in 24 communities across the state.

Arizona Revised Statutes §15-1650.03 (B) requires the Arizona Board of Regents to submit a comprehensive university cost containment report by Sept. 1 of each year for each university under its jurisdiction.


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