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AUGUST Friday Morning Breakfast

Posted By Heather Garbarino, Tuesday, September 3, 2019


A Higher Level of Higher Education


Arizona’s universities are crucial to the state’s future growth



One thing is clear when it comes to the future of Arizona’s economy – its three major universities are and will be playing a key role in its growth.


That was very evident at Valley Partnership’s August Friday Morning Breakfast.


Arizona State University President Dr. Michael Crow addressed a full house at Phoenix Country Club, explaining how he has transformed the school into a landmark example of how a university can look beyond its past and set a new standard for excellence in the future.


Dr. Crow has been at ASU for 17 years and said he believes there is plenty of untapped potential at ASU and the other two state universities. To him, it’s all about creating a highly-trained, educated workforce. This, in turn, will spur the state's economy, and wisely using development of university assets to attract more opportunities for Valley residents. 


“We found open-mindedness and we found ways to move the university forward other than as a government bureaucracy university,” Dr. Crow said. “We made a fundamental shift in thinking that we couldn’t do in other states.”

Dr. Crow delivered the keynote address on how ASU, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University have handled the state's transforming economy, the funding battles waged with the Legislature and how they plan to take higher education in Arizona to a higher level.


The August panel consisted of John Arnold, Executive Director, Arizona Board of Regents; John Creer, Associate Vice President, Real Estate Department, ASU; Alan Maguire, Maguire Company; and Rick Shangraw, CEO, ASU Enterprise Partners. Moderating was John Graham, Chairman and CEO, Sunbelt Holdings.


Dr. Crow identified anti-fragile economies that create new industries (Seattle) and resilient economies that adapt to change (Pittsburgh). Arizona’s economy, he said, is fragile.

“It’s (a fragile economy) a function of adaptation to change,” Dr. Crow said. “We went through a recession and made a slow comeback and we do not yet have a highly adaptive, self-created, regional economy.”

Being innovative is important as well, Dr. Crow said. He pointed out how ASU’s engineering programs have ballooned from 8,000 students in 2009 to more than 19,000 now.

“That’s a function of being allowed to innovate,” he said.

While Arizona’s top schools are outperforming the rest of the nation in terms of college graduation rates, students in lower-income brackets and younger students, namely Hispanics, are not there yet. Latinos are the fastest-growing demographic in Arizona but their college attainment rate is a paltry 9 percent.

“We don’t have enough kids graduating from high school,” Dr. Crow said. “We don’t have enough going on to college. We don’t have enough people with college degrees who are staying.”

What the panelists had to say:

>> Maguire, on producing an educated workforce: “Workforce is knowledge, skills and culture. That’s the most important things that the universities do,”

>> Arnold, on how attracting out-of-state students increased revenue during the recession when state funds dried up: “We’re charging them market price for a degree. Turns out our degrees have a great deal of value. There’s a coming reduction in the number of young people. It will hit not only university enrollments but employment markets.”

>> Creer, on projects such as SkySong, Novus of the downtown biomedical campus: “They are rooted deeply in the university’s mission. It’s taken us 30 years to develop our research park in south Tempe. We call that a success.  “It’s something we can do patiently and deliberately.”

>> Shangraw, on ASU raising more than $400 million from donations in 2018: “We’re not only asking people to provide resources to ASU because they’re affiliated. We have a lot of causes that prompt people to be active in what we’re doing with the university.”

At the end of the day, Dr. Crow said, Arizona must embrace innovation, open-mindedness and flexibility.

“We find other ways to move forward than running a simple-minded, simple government-funded government bureaucracy university. We have abandoned that. That is gone.”

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