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Wednesday, October 22, 2014 | Last updated: 8:06pm

ASU's new model enables UA to become more elite



We love to make fun of Arizona State University. We call its students stupid. We joke that ASU students have STDs. We claim that our sports teams are better and then get upset when the inconceivable happens.

But ASU’s new academic direction, called the New American University model, is attracting national attention in a good way.

The New American University model’s goal is to make education accessible to as many people as possible while maintaining the high standards of a research university.

This means that the 88.9 percent acceptance rate that we love to make fun of — well, that joke is quickly being turned on us.

Through an “eAdvisor” program, which updates students when they begin to get off track on their major requirements, more interdisciplinary study and several satellite campuses, ASU President Michael Crow has been touting the model and trying to get other state schools on board.

But the UA shouldn’t be one of them.

Crow said that he wants to avoid a time when “we let rich kids get taught by professors and poor kids get taught by computer,” which is an admirable and important effort, but one that runs the risk of watering down education.

In addition to ASU’s growing population (the university has increased enrollment by more than 20,000 people since 2003), its retention rate also saw an increase of 11 percentage points from 2000 to 2010.

You can attribute this to improved tutoring and advising opportunities or to innovative approaches to the STEM fields, but it’s far more likely that professors are teaching down to their students.

While ASU is doing great things in increasing the accessibility of a degree, it is also devaluing it. If just about anyone can get a degree from ASU, what does that degree even mean?

ASU is currently ranked 139th in the U.S. News & World Report Best Colleges rankings. It is also thousands of dollars deep in debt (partially due to cuts in funding from the state), bringing all of Crow’s progress into question.

In a 2010 editorial, ASU’s student newspaper, The State Press, complained that the New American University leads to oversized classes and housing problems.

It’s possible that this model will work for a few schools across the country. Those schools will become places where students can get a good education for a good price.

But there shouldn’t be two of those schools in the same state. The UA and Arizona now have the perfect opportunity to show what the New American University model can do in conjunction with the traditional university model.

The UA can begin to raise its admission standards and try to attract top applicants from across the country, while ASU continues its accessible education model in order to make Arizona the place to go for higher education.

If our state were able to offer varied and diverse choices in education, Arizona universities wouldn’t just be known for their partying anymore; they’d be known as leaders in education.

— Dan Desrochers is a pre-journalism sophomore. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @drdesrochers .


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