Educational attainment and university graduation rates will be vital as Arizona presses toward a knowledge-based economy.


As I am asked to consider the future of higher education in Arizona, I can easily fall back on the insight of the perennial statesmen Barry Goldwater, who noted that frontier challenges will always exist for Arizona. The same holds true for higher education, its evolving frontier perpetually fraught with challenges.

To start, higher education will be an even bigger global imperative in 50 years. Implementing ever-new efficiencies to ensure the university system is viable and competitive will remain at the pinnacle of the higher education landscape. Instructional and research partnerships with global public and private institutions and industries will permeate our classrooms and offer expanded opportunities for funding.

Today, the Arizona Board of Regents has implemented aggressive metrics to measure important outcomes, such as bachelor degree production, so the state can be globally competitive now and in the future. While we are well on-track, demand for higher education will expand from the present 130,000 degree-seeking students to 350,000 students in 50 years.

Increasing access and ensuring affordability will remain vitally important in the future. Information technologies and social media will pave innovative ways for higher education to open its doors and enhance affordability. Blended learning and open content will be widely embraced. Classrooms will be borderless and students more diverse than ever.

The Arizona population will exceed 15 million, contributing to the development of the Sun Corridor, and further spawning the need for satellite and regional campus growth. Year-round academic calendars and course availability through multiple access points, from classroom to electronic applications, will provide greater learning opportunities.

With confidence, I offer that one facet of higher education will remain constant - it's intrinsic value and indelible tie to the prosperity of the state. Educational attainment drives our knowledge-based economy and imparts important societal benefits, such as greater personal income. Likewise, I believe and hope in 50 years, higher education will still embody the consummate communion of wonderment and exploration that is the genesis of great ideas, innovation and discovery, which make our state and our world a better place.

A vibrant economy is the cornerstone for the longevity of our state. Higher education will always be part of the equation.

Thomas Anderes is president of the Arizona Board of Regents.