Advocating for the public university and community college in Pima County is a task I take very seriously as a member of the Arizona House of Representatives. Year after year, I push for more resources for these institutions because I wholeheartedly support their efforts to provide affordable, quality educational experiences to a diverse student population. Additionally, I am a proud graduate of the University of Arizona. For these reasons, I am compelled to comment on the choice UA President Ann Weaver Hart made to take a paid position on the board of a troubled for-profit university.
I cannot support her decision to take a paid position on the DeVry University Board. Her obligation is first and foremost to the University of Arizona.
The Arizona Daily Star reported earlier this month that President Hart took the position, which pays $70,000 annually and includes $100,000 a year in stocks, with this for-profit university that is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission. The lawsuit alleges that the school’s advertisements misled students about their likelihood of finding jobs and their earning potential.
President Hart’s involvement with DeVry sends a mixed message to people across Pima County and the state. People in our community are taking notice. My constituents have been reaching out to me, many asking about accountability.
People have protested publicly, but President Hart has vehemently defended her decision, saying she intends to “work toward assuring that higher education is available to a segment of Americans who will never be able to attend universities like the University of Arizona.”
I find this statement completely shocking. Instead of dividing her attention, President Hart should be focused on expanding opportunities for students to attend the University of Arizona. I reached out to President Hart to discuss this with her directly. She continued to defend her sentiment and explained that she has had the support of several of her colleagues. But I do not stand alone either. Since she aligned herself with DeVry, many legislators and educators have stated their concerns, as well.
Universities and communities colleges across the state have weathered massive budget cuts. Last year alone, the Legislature cut the University of Arizona’s budget by about $31 million, and Pima Community College’s budget was slashed by nearly $6.5 million. Improving public education in Arizona will require all hands on deck. We must work together to ensure our public universities and community colleges get the resources needed to continue preparing our students for a 21st century economy.
President Hart’s involvement with a for-profit university, especially one being sued for alleged dubious practices, does not further the fight for our universities. As a University of Arizona graduate and retired professor and in my role as an Arizona representative, I ask her to make a choice: either resign her position on the DeVry University Board or step down as president of the University of Arizona.
The people of Pima County and Legislative District 3 need to know whose side President Hart is on.
Rep. Macario Saldate is a retired University of Arizona professor and a Democrat representing legislative District 3. Contact him at email@example.com