Remarks to the Arizona Board of Regents

News Release

April 9, 2015

Good morning. I’m glad to be here today and especially happy to be on the campus of my alma mater.

It’s in large part because of the fine education and opportunities I received here at ASU that I was prepared for my career and for life.

Those are opportunities I want every Arizonan to have the ability to access.

As a new Regent, I want to begin by thanking each of the Regents here today for your service. An eight-year term is a significant commitment of your time, effort and energy. It is an invaluable public service you are undertaking to oversee the universities and protect the economic value higher education represents for Arizona.

And to the three universities, I want you to know you are tremendous assets to our state. Through your success – past, present and future – you have put Arizona on the map.

I also want to recognize the Regents’ vision for the future of our public universities through an enterprise approach – a business model focused on results, efficiency, innovation and accountability to parents, students and taxpayers

I applaud you for prioritizing operational efficiency, utilizing entrepreneurial partnerships to expand educational opportunities and incubating the research discoveries into the private marketplace.

I want to tell you that I also recognize the challenges the universities face – student preparedness, budget constraints, rising costs and public demand for constant improvements in the quality of your institutions.

 With these realities in mind, my intention is to partner with you to develop a long-term strategy for higher education in Arizona.

 I support the individual missions of each University and President Crow, President Hart and President Cheng – as you advocate on behalf of your institutions for financial equity and the freedom to move your universities forward.

 My job as Governor is to build an economic climate for growth in Arizona where businesses want to locate and expand.

 The job of the universities is to provide a high quality educational experience to as many Arizonans as possible.

 And we also look to you to produce the talent needed for the 21st century workforce that our economy requires.

 It’s important for us to chart the path forward as a united group of responsible leaders.

 So, today, I am asking the Arizona Board of Regents to direct President Klein and our university presidents to work with my administration to refashion the strategic plan you already have into a sustainable, long-term business plan that addresses the needs of students and the business community that depends on their success.

 This should be a plan that policymakers and elected leaders, starting with myself, can support, take to the public, advocate for and implement.

 Here are my initial thoughts for this plan:

  • It should be focused first on quality results – then growth.
  • The plan should recognize the interdependent nature of higher education and economic development – and therefore, incorporate the input of businesses – both large and small.
  • The plan should balance investment with efficiency – just as I have said to K-12, I want more money in classrooms and less on overhead and administration. Give us administrative reforms that I can support and advocate.
  • The plan should identify a sustainable enterprise financial model that counts the state as one of many investors. While universities provide an important public service, state support is not and cannot be the only financial driver for the future growth of our university system.
  • The plan should respect the most important consumers of higher education - students and their parents – by identifying changes that would increase access and make college more affordable.
  • This plan should include strategies on how to strengthen relationships with K-12 and community colleges to create more alignment in college readiness and degree attainment.
  • And finally, the plan should arrive as soon as possible as we begin to develop our policy agenda for the next legislative session.  

Before I conclude today, I want to address the recently enacted state budget.

My first priority as Governor was to restore the state’s fiscal house. I inherited a $1 billion budget shortfall.

To solve it, we needed to make difficult – and permanent decisions – knowing that once we restored fiscal order, we could start having conversations about how to move Arizona forward, rather than perennial debates over how to resolve the decisions of the past.

The process was not easy nor was it popular. But now that our budget is balanced, it’s time for us to move forward.

Over the next few months, you will embark on a similar process here - the question of increasing tuition and fees. Tuition setting is the responsibility of the Regents – and each of you will have a voice.

As leaders who oversee our university system, you must recognize the delicate balance between the growing needs of your institutions in a competitive environment with a product that young people and their parents can afford. 

I urge you to approach this endeavor in a business like fashion when considering whether to raise prices. I urge you to use a critical eye as the Presidents make their cases to you.

I urge you to solicit the opinions of students and their families.

I urge you to leverage every entrepreneurial opportunity, maximize operational efficiency, eliminate programs that do not work, streamline administrative processes where you can, and ask your team to do more.

And when you have exhausted every other pathway, I urge you to use restraint because price and value matter – and in business, making a quality product that fewer can afford does not often make sense. 

Over the next four years, I intend to partner with you to expand our economy, educational excellence and opportunity.

In my campaign for governor, I spoke about “Opportunity for All.”

As drivers of educational excellence and the economic health of our great state, our universities are critical to that mission.

I am confident in the leaders I see before me today – and I encourage you to be unified in your approach. A fractured system cannot truly be an enterprise.

As an ASU alumnus, it will be easy for people to say that I am only focused on ASU - but let me say today that as Governor and as Regent, I am equal parts Wildcat, Lumberjack and Sun Devil (except on the third weekend in November).

Thank you – and I would welcome any questions you have for me today.