West campus on track as 'classic arts and sciences campus'
ASU President Michael Crow told a standing-room-only audience of more than 500 at a public forum Wednesday night, “We are not watering down anything at the West campus, but rather are doing the exact opposite; we are increasing the opportunities for excellence, access and impact. As this university continues to grow, within the constraints of the budget, so will the programs and academics at the West campus.”
The forum, hosted by The Arizona Republic and WESTMARC, was designed to address citizen concerns for the campus’s future in light of drastic budget cuts being forced on Arizona’s university system. Crow took about 20 questions asked by moderator and Republic General Manager of Community Newspapers Michael Ryan and those submitted by email before the event, as well as hand-written questions from the floor.
The president, who noted that ASU has undergone deeper budget cuts than any other public university in the country, cited the progress made by the West campus over the past seven years. During his presidency, the university’s increased investment in hiring exceptional faculty has led to greater numbers of tenured and tenure-track professors, as well as a student enrollment increase of 44 percent since 2002. At the same time, student and faculty increases are more representative of the demographics of the community served by the West campus. The operating budget at the campus has grown from $42 million in 2002 to almost $80 million before the recent budget cuts. The number of undergraduate and graduate degrees has doubled. Construction of additional classrooms, science labs and computer facilities has been completed and planned renovations and expansions are in the works.
“We are only interested, again as budget allows, in investing in programs at the West campus, attracting more students, more programs, more facilities and more resources. This is a great campus with great faculty and students.”
Established in 1984 by state legislature, the West campus is home to the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and boasts an enrollment of over 9,000 students. Crow wants the New College to be one of the country’s great liberal arts colleges.
“We believe this can be a classic American arts and sciences campus,” Crow answered in response to a question about his vision for the campus. “Arizona State University is built around its colleges. Some are on multiple campuses, while others, like New College are on a single campus. We want to see stability around our core colleges, and then we progress and mature. There are graduate degrees within New College that are the heart of the college, programs like those in applied sciences. We are looking for these types of programs that we can offer students who can graduate with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree within five years.”
In addition to the degree programs offered through New College, the West campus will also host undergraduate degrees offered by the nationally ranked W.P. Carey School of Business and the College of Teacher Education and Leadership, which will take the university lead in teacher preparation curriculum.
When asked about why people might be confused about the future of the West campus, Crow said, “We are making administrative adjustments at all of our campuses. We have realized an 18 percent reduction in this state’s investment in the university. But, we have not reduced the quality of our academics.
“We have stayed focused on excellence and access, we have tightened our operations. Now is not the time to be reducing our academic power; we are going in the opposite direction, looking for the best ways to advance the institution.
“Maybe people are not satisfied we haven’t pulled it off more quickly.”