Monday, June 15, 2009

UPDATE - Revised Arizona University System Restructuring

Due to the extreme legislative budget cuts and weak Arizona economy, I have made some fundamental changes to my original proposal. Instead of contributing to "urban sprawl" by immediately building new campus locations, I suggest that the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) first maximize its existing, under-utilized campuses. This saves more money and precious time which results in a more immediate impact for students and taxpayers alike.

I propose that Arizona State University (ASU) be divided into 3 separate universities:
(1) West campus transforms into a low-cost, non-research university (PSU).
(2) Polytechnic campus is a medium-cost, modest-research university (AzTech).
(3) Tempe campus remains as a high-cost, heavy-research university (ASU).
The ASU Downtown Phoenix campus continues as an extension of the ASU Tempe campus.

The majority of ASU West programs are moved to the ASU Polytechnic campus to create a "complete university" (AzTech) having a moderate research level. This approach could establish "2 universities for the price of 1". Common degree programs, departments, and research (e.g., Math, Biology, Psychology, Humanities) between the West and Polytechnic campuses are then combined together. The current ASU West faculty who do not become part of ASU can still continue to pursue their research upon relocating to the newly integrated AzTech University. ASU's Teachers College could relocate to either the Downtown Phoenix or Tempe campus.

Now, this then frees up the ASU West campus to become a free-standing university (PSU) that offers its own complete set of workforce-oriented, academic degree programs on-site (e.g., business, education, human services) while at a noticeably lower tuition rate and at a much lower operating cost structure (e.g., non-research faculty) than ASU & UA. Thus, PSU provides affordable undergraduate access to a public university education for many more Arizonans by offering "low-cost, high-quality" instruction within a university atmosphere.

This decentralization approach removes the fragmentation that is currently present among ASU's campuses and provides a "one-stop" educational experience whereby all programs, faculty, leadership, and administration are housed "on-site". PSU, AzTech, and ASU could each compete and collaborate with one another and with the other state universities and community colleges as its own "separate brand" with local control to further differentiate itself. Not all students want (or need) an ASU education; however, students who desire an ASU education while in Greater Phoenix can still travel to Tempe or Downtown Phoenix.

PSU and AzTech each has a clear identity, culture and purpose [mission], "permanence",
and a "sense of community" which provides a "critical mass" as a "destination campus" to substantially raise enrollments and graduations. In contrast, ASU West and Polytechnic both resemble an "empty shell" under a "remote outpost" as a "pseudo-university", which does not offer enough incentive to discourage many more undergraduate students from attending the high-cost and overcrowded main campuses of ASU & UA in Tempe & Tucson.

Common degree programs offered among PSU, AzTech, and ASU would not be viewed as a redundancy because each institution's cost structure, curriculum, mission, and branding are more clearly differentiated from one another, unlike common programs found among the campuses of ASU's "One University in Many Places". Likewise, each institution has its own separate budget, unique admissions standards, local decision-making authority, and a distinct tuition rate. ABOR exerts direct control over these independent state universities, thus eliminating the "middle man" (ASU) from managing the West & Polytechnic campuses.

PSU and AzTech can also develop partnerships with community colleges, high schools, and the surrounding communities. NAU can redirect some of its programs in Maricopa County towards areas in Rural Arizona. ASU and UA can cap enrollments to mitigate their costs and overcrowding. Residents of Greater Phoenix can drive on their expanding freeway system or use mass transit to travel across town to attend a local state university of their choice.
ASU shall no longer use the West and Polytechnic campuses to disguise 3 universities as 1.