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Tri-university Innovation Alliance to work toward greater student success, cost effectiveness

(Phoenix, AZ) – The Arizona Innovation Alliance is a new tri-university partnership to enhance public higher education in Arizona through student success, technology solutions, cost effectiveness and sharing best practices.  Its structure encourages collaboration for innovation and sharing best practices that achieve the Arizona Board of Regents’ promise of access and attainment while increasing quality, affordability and efficiency.

“The Arizona Innovation Alliance is a first for any single state. It will lead the way in the nation with the entire state’s public universities’ working together. Arizona’s public universities already excel in many areas. Higher education, especially in the COVID-19 landscape, is evolving at a rapid pace, but it is up to us to go beyond responsiveness to the changing landscape and engender change that aids our students as we work ultimately to increase educational attainment in Arizona,” said ABOR Chair Larry E. Penley. “Through the power of collaboration among these three innovative universities, I’m confident the new Arizona Innovation Alliance will make a difference in students’ lives, especially those from underrepresented populations.”

The AIA will be modeled on the University Innovation Alliance, a coalition of 11, nationwide universities including Arizona State University that is backed by the Gates Foundation. ASU President Michael Crow will initially lead the effort and each university will commit resources to implement the work at the university level.

“The University Innovation Alliance has had great success and increased graduation of low-income students by nearly 30 percent in just four years. I’m confident that our new alliance with all three of Arizona’s public universities will enable more opportunities for underserved students through targeted efforts that lead to systemic change,” Crow said.

Initially, the AIA will focus on improving overall student success - retention, graduation and academic performance - with a focus on traditionally underserved populations. Goals within the student success arena include:

  • Improve first-year retention, four-year graduation, and six-year graduation rates in line with ABOR-established metrics.
  • Increase the number of Pell-eligible students enrolled and graduating.
  • Enroll entering resident undergraduate cohorts (freshman and transfer) which reflect the income and ethnic diversity of the overall population of high school graduates in Arizona.

“Establishing this new alliance underscores our commitment to inclusion and providing an accessible, high-quality education for students from all walks of life. Collaboration among our universities will harness the power of each institution and lead to better outcomes and, ultimately, better quality of life for these students,” said University of Arizona President Robert Robbins. 

The tri-university coalition will also deploy educational practices and programs that combine high standards of student outcomes with cost effective teaching and student support. Goals for cost effectiveness are:

  • Develop a mix of program design and delivery methods (face-to-face, online, hybrid, technology-enhanced, etc.) that best meet the needs of each institution’s goals.
  • Design and deploy technology-based solutions and innovative structures in all aspects of the education, student support and administrative services.
  • Create innovative partnerships among the three universities, with other universities, and with the private sector where greater effectiveness or cost advantages can be gained.

Resource allocation optimization will focus on student tuition and state appropriations that enable the delivery of educational programs and funding needed to assure accessibility and affordability. Specific goals for resource allocation:

  • Through innovations in program design and service delivery, limit the resource requirement from resident undergraduate tuition rate while achieving the student success goals.
  • Collaborate on innovative approaches to financial aid that support access, educational goals and optimal use of resources.

“Collectively we will expand on the individual progress we have each made to enhance access and increase the diversity of our student populations. Improving student outcomes, especially for first-generation students and underrepresented populations, is key to the future success of AZ and an integral part of NAU’s mission,” said NAU President Rita Cheng.


Sarah Harper, 602-229-2542, 602-402-1341 |