Apr 2, 2024 - News

University of Arizona president Robert Robbins to step down amid budget crisis

A man in a baseball cap.

Robert Robbins in October 2022. Photo: Chris Coduto/Getty Images

University of Arizona President Robert Robbins will step down at the end of his contract, or possibly sooner, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: Robbins has been at the center of controversy since November 2023, when the university revealed a $177 million shortfall.

  • State leaders, including Gov. Katie Hobbs, have been publicly critical of Robbins and ABOR for a lack of accountability and transparency.

Driving the news: ABOR said Robbins will leave when his contract expires in June 2026, or before if the university finds a successor sooner.

  • ABOR chair Cecilia Mata said the board will launch a national search for Robbins' replacement "with expediency."

What they're saying: "It has been a true honor to lead the University of Arizona for so many years, particularly during a time of transformational change in higher education and with challenges in the world around us," Robbins, who has held the job since 2017, said in a statement.

During his tenure, Robbins, a surgeon, pushed for the creation of the Center for Advanced Molecular and Immunological Therapies in downtown Phoenix. It's expected to break ground later this year.

Flashback: UofA's financial crisis came to light late last year when the university revealed it had miscalculated its cash on hand by millions of dollars.

Zoom in: Robbins has also come under fire for the university's controversial acquisition of for-profit online school Ashford University.

  • That online university had previously been sued for engaging in deceptive marketing practices, and the U.S. Department of Education announced last summer it would clear $72 million in debt for former students.
  • The department is now trying to force UofA to pay back that forgiven loan debt, as Axios reported last month.
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