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ABOR takes steps to hold UA president accountable for new online college
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ABOR takes steps to hold UA president accountable for new online college

Ashford University, in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood of San Diego. The University of Arizona is buying the assets of Ashford, which has 35,000 students, and creating a new private online university.

The Arizona Board of Regents took steps Thursday to ensure the University of Arizona’s creation of a new online campus delivers on its promises.

Larry Penley, the board’s chairman, announced while ABOR is not the governing board for the University of Arizona Global Campus, it will hold UA President Robert Robbins accountable for the entity’s success.

The UA Global Campus will be a nonprofit, fully online program, using the assets of Ashford University, a for-profit, online school in the San Diego area.

The administration sees it as an entry to serve a more diverse set of students at Ashford, currently serving a population that is 43% white and 57% non-white, according to the UA. Within Ashford, nearly 90% of students are over age 25, 71% of these students are women and 25% of students are affiliated with the military.

The board passed its motion to set forth expectations for the UA, which includes reporting documents despite the new school being a nonprofit private entity.

“University of Arizona Global Campus is a private entity, it’s not subject to public records and so we wanted to ensure that the board can get the reporting out of out of this entity that we believe is appropriate,” said John Arnold, the board’s executive director.

Penley said the UA should provide for review to the board the affiliation agreement, prior to finalizing the deal. It also wants notification from UA as it completes steps in the deal, including the establishing of the Global Campus’ new board and recommendations for a president as well as approval from the federal government.

There will also be an annual report given to the board. The elements of that report will be decided later.

During the meeting, some board members raised questions regarding operations of the Global Campus.

Members first asked about the image of Ashford and it being associated with the UA’s brand.

“I think every critical document that I read focused on the purchase of a for-profit institution with a history of lawsuits and what essentially amounts to price gouging their students,” said Regent Lyndel Manson, who asked how UA’s policies and procedures would benefit the Global Campus.

“We understand that there’s going to be a lot of headwinds as we try to navigate the communication about what we hope to do but clearly, there had been, I think in the entire for-profit, higher education space, problems without question,” Robbins said. “We see this is an opportunity for us to serve the current Ashford students and future students by delivering educational quality that would be to University of Arizona standards ... in a highly ethical way.”

Ashford’s owner, Zovio, will be on the hook for any impacts felt from lawsuits currently in progress, not the UA.

Robbins later pointed to the WASC Senior College and University Commission, the regional accrediting agency for Ashford, saying it has “controls in place” where policies and procedures are in place to ensure improvements over past practices of the university.

When questioned by other board members about the practices that are currently in place to make sure students are not being taken advantage of, Robbins pointed to the monitoring of calls with potential students and the audits exploring the recruiting and financial difficulties of Ashford’s students.

There were also concerns on the 15-year agreement, which has Ashford’s current owner, Zovio, providing services in the realm of recruiting, student advising and financial aid counseling.

Zovio would provide its services to 35,000 students at launch.

“I think there’s a challenge there in really sharing what’s happening, helping all of us to understand what is the role of Zovio and how are all of these various functions of this new entity going to impact the university itself?” said Regent Ron Shoopman.

Robbins responded that he envisioned a setting where, “Now the Ashford faculty will be able to have colleagues at the University of Arizona to collaborate with, the students will derive immense benefit from having an association with the University of Arizona brand.”

UA will also put its stamp on some of the operations and governance of the Global Campus through an academic affiliation agreement, according to Robbins.

This will address a new nine-person board of which includes four members who will be from UA or an affiliate of UA and five independent board members selected by the UA administration.

An August, 2020, heatwave continued into a second week in Tucson and throughout Arizona. Tucson broke a record with a high temperature of 111-degrees. Most days bounce around from 106-109, with little monsoon rain to cool the afternoons. Video by Josh Galemore / Arizona Daily Star

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1

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