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Local Opinion: The UA is going strong

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Tis the season for State of the State and State of the Union addresses and in that spirit, a State of the University of Arizona is in order.

And the state of the university is excellent.

After enrollments and revenue were crushed by COVID, they are roaring back — up 9% over two years. International enrollment has returned. And commensurate ancillary revenue is up. The balance sheet is returning to good health.

And that’s why — after every part of the university sacrificed to survive the pandemic budget erosion with almost no layoffs — new investments can now be made, most notably a salary increase for all faculty and staff averaging 3% this past year. And as enrollment growth flows through multiple years, additional support for our faculty and staff will be forthcoming. There is nothing more important to our mission than keeping talented people.

The incoming freshman class is the largest, the most academically prepared, and the most diverse in school history. Freshman persistence has reached a new high of 85.6% and graduation rates have now reached a record 67.9%.

UArizona has reached a new level of annual research of over $750 million. These dollars drive economic growth in Arizona, spawn new business start-ups and most importantly provide solutions for mankind. UArizona is a national leader in optical science and helped put a spacecraft on Mars.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, Tech Launch Arizona leads Tucson’s growing start-up economy, having generated $1.61 billion in economic output and $59 million in tax revenues.

The valued College of Medicine has been infused with new leadership and growth and its financial relationship with Banner improves each and every day. The Cancer Center has earned top tier status. And the newly announced Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies, or CAMI, in Phoenix will instantly be a world-class leader in this emerging field of medicine.

The University of Arizona is a leader among Hispanic-serving institutions and has launched the Arizona Native Scholars Grant Program to ensure all undergraduates from Arizona’s tribal nations attend the university for free.

President Robbins took a big and controversial risk on acquiring a national for-profit university with 32,000 students and converting it into the university. The reality of education is that it is increasingly going online and the successful universities of the future will need an online offering of sufficient scale to withstand the market compression that will inevitably occur. This complicated transaction will provide UArizona with scale and is rapidly nearing successful completion.

The vaunted basketball program has fully recovered from a basketball cheating trauma from many years ago. The football program has recovered and athletic programs in other sports are thriving.

While celebrating the good news, a full accounting must also include a horrific shooting that rocked the campus and pierced its openness and sense of security. The pain lingers and a forthcoming report will guide us in steps to take going forward.

UArizona has earned a U.S. News and World Report ranking among the Top 50 public institutions in the U.S.

Bobby Robbins is on track to be one of the most successful and consequential presidents of UArizona in recent memory. And the Board of Regents has just enthusiastically renewed him for an additional three years.

So the State of the University is strong — with even more to come.

With students back at UA for the fall semester, here's a look at the Tucson campus over the years compared to now.

Fred DuVal is chair-elect of the Arizona Board of Regents. He grew up in Tucson and attended the University of Arizona.

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