NAU's Haeger lays out new university vision

Flagstaff, AZ – NAU President John Haeger laid out a tough fiscal reality. $30 million in state cuts this year; $63 million total since 2008.

"I think it's fair to say, the state is deinvesting in higher education," Heager says.

By 2020, Haeger predicts state funding will make up only 14% of NAU's budget down from nearly 40% in 2006.

"What's happened is we've gone from a country in which public education was absolutely the cornerstone of a democratic society," Heager says. "And the change is we no longer believe that."

Haeger says the push now is to make institutions more semi public or semi private. For example, NAU has teamed up with American Campus Communities to build two new residential halls for $65 million. The private company will assume the risk in exchange for managing the facilities.

"So that's the kind of partnership model that I think we're going to have to use everywhere on campus in the future," he says.

Faculty and staff in the crowd were concerned with how NAU will absorb the 30 million dollar cut for the next fiscal year. Continued enrollment growth will boost revenues up to 8 million dollars. Each division has been asked to trim 4 percent of its budget. And Haeger said he's looking to save 2 million dollars in employee benefits.

"I don't know if you know it, but our health benefits are a Cadillac, I don't know anywhere else, where there's no deductible!"

Despite all the talk of budget and possible benefit cuts, Haeger remains optimistic. He closed his speech by saying this new "semi-public" model could unleash huge potential.