/ Modified dec 4, 2023 7:09 p.m.

Senior VP of UAGC steps down six months after acquisition

Effective Monday, Dec. 4, Dr. Gary Packard will instead be serving as the interim Senior Vice Provost of Online Initiatives.

Old Main at the University of Arizona hero A cloudy sky over Old Main at the University of Arizona.
AZPM Staff

University of Arizona Senior Vice President Paul Pastorek, who oversees the University of Arizona Global Campus, is stepping down just six months after the acquisition of the online university.

Effective Monday, Dec. 4, Dr. Gary Packard took over UAGC. His new title is interim Senior Vice Provost of Online Initiatives. Pastorek was a Senior Vice President who oversaw the online university.

Packard currently serves as Dean of the College of Applied Science and Technology. Dr. Nicol Rae will serve as the acting dean of CAST.

Pastorek’s resignation comes one month after the university announced that its financial health is what it termed as "fragile" in a slide during a November 2nd meeting.

Following Monday’s faculty senate meeting, UA President Dr. Robert Robbins was asked by an Arizona Daily Star Reporter why Pastorek left. Robbins said, “It was a more long-term issue around incorporation and collaboration between UAGC and our colleges and programs.”

A university spokesperson did not respond to AZPM’s questions about why Pastorek stepped down.

According to a report from the Arizona Board of Regents, one of the major causes associated with UA's decrease in cash on hand is the acquisition of the online university. That acquisition, which was finalized this summer, added $265.5 million in operating costs to the University of Arizona, according to ABOR documents.

“I think there’s been a lot of disinformation,” Robbins said during Monday’s faculty senate meeting. “For instance, that UAGC cost $265 million. I have no idea where that came from, but it makes it into an urban legend just with a couple of tweaks and the media gets a hold of it and it becomes its own story.”

Chief Financial Officer Lisa Rulney went on to clarify that UAGC did not cost UA over $200 million.

“UAGC’s expenditures will be included in our days cash-on-hand ratio in fiscal year 2024 going forward,” Rulney said. “So there was probably a note about how that impacted the days cash on hand forecast of 97 days for June 30, 2024, when we’re including their expenditures. We’ll also be including their cash.”

During Monday’s faculty senate meeting, Robbins emphasized that UA’s financial issues stem from areas like loans to athletics and overspending in units like the Office of the President.

University faculty have long criticized the UAGC acquisition with some calling it a diploma mill.

“I think many of the faculty of the University of Arizona are very nervous about having our name on the degrees issued by UAGC,” faculty senate chair Dr. Leila Hudson previously told AZPM. “We don't have oversight; we don't have quality control. We have a lot of suspicions based on what we know about its predecessor, Ashford (University).”

In August, the U.S. Department of Education announced that $72 million in student loans would be canceled for borrowers who attended Ashford University after a court ruled that the college misled students about its accreditation, estimated time to graduate, and costs.

The department is now looking to recover money from UA. However, UA claims it had “absolutely no involvement in, and is not directly or indirectly responsible for, the actions of Ashford and its parent company” and will be “assessing its options.”

If the university is required to pay that money to the federal government, it will further deepen challenges to restore its central reserve funding.

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