The Arizona University System urgently needs systemic change and structural reform to provide greater differentiation, efficiency, and performance among its universities while the Great Recession dictates a change in direction to generate economic development. My bold plan is a merger of two university branch campuses (West and Polytechnic) into an independent, research state university that is then housed at the Polytechnic campus location while transforming the West campus into an independent, non-research state university. Thus, these two campuses are elevated into free-standing state universities.
My proposal offers greater accessibility and affordability to a state university education for many more Arizonans especially among its non-competitive and under-served populations (since Arizona high school students have low college-going and college-completion rates) while maintaining a lower operating cost structure by not subsidizing the doctoral research programs and parking structures located at ASU Tempe. Furthermore, it strengthens the AZ University System by transforming ASU and UA into powerful flagship universities that can compete aggressively with top-ranked universities nationally and globally by reducing the
"brain drain" of Arizona's best and brightest students and faculty while increasing research.
The West and Polytechnic campuses would have clearer institutional identities and purpose if they are branded and managed as free-standing state universities. Their separate budgets and local decision-making authority shall protect them from the politics and policies of ASU's centralized administrative structure. In addition, they provide a large enough venue away from the high-cost and overcrowded main campuses of ASU and UA to educate a high-volume of undergraduate students at a lower per unit cost to both the students of Arizona and the State of Arizona, with ASU and UA issuing enrollment caps to further reduce costs.
The time has now come for ASU's monopoly as a public, free-standing, four-year university to finally come to an end for Greater Phoenix’s population of 4.1 million. Arizona needs to restructure its university system to provide greater accountability for its residents and to ensure the viability and sustainability of its long-term higher educational and governmental structure while stimulating the regional economies of Greater Phoenix and Arizona. The growing Arizona population of 6.5 million deserve to have more than 3 public universities, too, especially since Arizona has now become the 15th most populated state in the nation, and Arizona will no longer be the national laughing-stock of having only 3 state universities.