Arizona Universities Network ending
The Arizona Universities Network (AZUN) — a service allowing students from the three Arizona universities to take online courses from another institution for the same price — has announced its termination.
Beginning on July 1, 2011, students will no longer have the option to take an online course from another state university for the same tuition price as their home institution. However, the sweeping budget cuts may not be to blame for its closure, but rather a lack of necessity, student involvement and financial motivation.
The 2020 Vision, a strategic plan outlined by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR), emphasizes a long-term increase in the number of graduates from Arizona universities and an improvement in the academic services offered at each institution. Jennifer Ginter, a student regent, said the 2020 Vision looks to improve upon many aspects of the state’s universities.
“Each of the universities will be expanding in the next ten years to meet the 2020 Vision,” Ginther said.
According to Ginther, the cessation of AZUN is largely due to the considerable advancements the universities hope to make in the realms of their respective online student services.
“It has nothing to do with the budget,” Ginther said.
She explained the funding for AZUN comes from a collection of sales tax revenues approved for use in 2001’s Proposition 301.
According to Katie Paquet, associate vice-president of public affairs and external relations for ABOR, the individual expansion of each university’s online program has rendered AZUN less necessary to students both on and off Arizona campuses.
“More students were just utilizing the online programs at their own institutions instead of going through AZUN,” Paquet said.
Fred Hurst, vice president of extended campuses and dean of online learning, said with a program cost of about 1.7 million per year, the lack of student interest was a factor in AZUN’s cancellation.
“There were only a couple hundred students each year that were taking advantage of it,” Hurst said. “If you’ve never used it, then it doesn’t have a big impact, and a majority of students were not.”
As the NAU representative of AZUN, Hurst sees the service as one that was highly important at the time of its creation around 2000, when online courses and degrees were more limited at the Arizona universities.
“We’re doing it all on our own now,” Hurst said of online degrees and courses at NAU.
Although AZUN’s transfer system of online credits will be discontinued, NAU will continue to offer many options for online students. With about 69 different online programs through NAU, and about 120 between the three universities, Hurst said online courses and degrees will continue to be a large part of NAU’s focus.
“I try to protect instruction first … I made sure that we got the money to continue to pay online faculty,” Hurst said.
The AZUN closure will not hinder the transfer options between the three universities. However, students will see a difference in the price of each transfer credit.
According to Hurst, the AZUN system allowed students to enroll in the online courses of other universities without being formally admitted or processed as a transfer student. This made the credit procedure less complex because it was paid for through the student’s home institution.
“Students [could] pay tuition at NAU and didn’t have to pay separately at ASU,” Hurst said. “We called it the balance of trade.”
With this “balance of trade,” NAU students were able to take ASU and UA credits at NAU prices, which are less expensive. As Hurst explained, NAU students had about a 10 percent price advantage when taking ASU and UA credits with AZUN.
Although AZUN will no longer offer the same online credit options as it has in the past, Hurst said online students will continue to be a priority at NAU.
“That’s our core mission, to make sure students at the institution are well served,” Hurst said.