Higher education is redefining its value—cutting costs
by jettisoning programs that do not produce enough graduates, laying off faculty and staff, rethinking tenure, and
re-evaluating all aspects of each institution based on their
relevance to core mission and contribution to the public good.
With rising costs and stagnant or declining financial aid,
educational leaders worry about access for low- and middle-income students. State institutions are struggling to offset
costs by increasing the number of non-resident students, and
all institutions are increasing the number of full payers. Even
the cost of research at research-intensive institutions is the
subject of debate.
How do student affairs leaders stay true to their values
of access and success for students, while managing in these
extraordinary times? The pressure to demonstrate results while
cutting costs has never been greater. Simultaneously, the need
for senior student affairs officers to remain strong and optimistic and to lead with confidence has never been more critical.
At the University of Arizona, we have focused on developing, nurturing, and strengthening partnerships both within
our campus and beyond our walls. Not only are we working
to stretch our resources further, but we have found that these
partnerships have helped build a sense of mutual support that
is crucial to thriving in these extraordinary times.
We have also found that partnering at all levels helps main-
tain a sense of optimism among staff and leaders and keep all
staff from feeling isolated and cynical. By initiating partner-
ships we are able to preserve quality and promote a collegial
sense of shared purpose. While shrinking resources can breed
competition among institutional leaders, active partnerships
promote a climate of mutual support.
Leveraging Campus Resources
The University of Arizona recently remodeled and expanded
its Campus Recreation Center. This facility is becoming one
of the centerpieces of our partnership efforts. Tutoring space is
at a premium, and Campus Recreation stepped in to provide
computer and academic support space.
Citywide budget cuts have led to the closure of a number
of public pools in town—Campus Recreation has stepped up
and offered the use of its pool. The location is central, fees
are minimal, and summer is a time when pool use by college
students is low. This activity brings children from throughout
the city to campus, providing opportunities to promote higher
education to the next generation of students.
A number of local high schools provide locked-in overnight “grad nights” for graduating seniors at a variety of local
venues. Costs for these events can range from $50,000 to
$150,000 with rental of recreational equipment comprising
a big part of the cost. Because high school graduations follow
the end of our semester, Campus Recreation has been working
with local high schools to provide a less expensive option for
high school grad night activities. These events can generate
modest income for the department and provide a key service
to the community.
The university’s Outdoor Adventures program has struggled
to stay viable financially. Increased partnerships are critical
to continuing this program. Outreach to other universities