Arizona State University Can Change Higher Education

During the last decade, Republicans have correctly criticized higher education’s inability to connect their credentials to the changing global economy at large. Although they were alone in the past, an increasing number of Democrats have begun to recognize higher education’s unsustainable trajectory. Whether it is burgeoning student debt or problems with accountability, the problems with higher education is too stark to ignore.

At the very same time, America’s national interests depend on a healthy higher education system, both public and private. If we want the next generation to be the leaders of tomorrow’s global age, they need the tools that can only be found in our public and private temple’s of knowledge.

Additionally, higher education cannot simply produce engineers and coders, but must also produce literary and philosophical giants.

Arizona State University should become the model for most public universities in America. Recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked ASU #1 out of 1500 institutions for “most innovative.” Although an interesting ranking, the sun devil is in the details regarding the school that outranked Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.

In my opinion, the school’s foundation for innovative success rests on their commitment to entrepreneurship. The school has cast off traditional education models and embraced a free market approach to student development. In almost every degree program is entrepreneurial principles taught, the Google or Apple mindset promoted.

This is extremely important as higher education has continued to offer diminishing returns because of their inability to be flexible. Our institutions are dying because their focus has been serving those employed by their system rather than their students. In fact, Moody’s had previously downgraded the outlook for the entire higher education sector to “negative.”

Arizona State University has gone way beyond simply expanding its online education offerings, which is essential to changing higher education, but has aggressively sought to increase its private corporate sponsorships. Whether it is Koch Industries or Starbucks, in the mind of Arizona State University President Michael Crow, solutions are to be found from all innovators regardless of political affiliation.

The school has placed almost its entire investment into ed-tech, pushing the boundaries to eliminate inefficiencies out of the learning process. In getting ahead of the tuition and student debt crisis, the university has continued to lower costs to affordable levels.

The university’s president is particularly impressive, as Dr. Crow has won the accolades of a majority of Republican officials in the state. Whether it is partnering with Starbucks to create a free 4-year college degree or cutting inefficient programs and costs, Crow’s success knows no ideological boundaries. In fact, from all appearances it’s downright conservative.

Arizona State University has also launched new endeavors like the McCain Institute.

The new institute is initially supported by a $9 million gift from the McCain Institute Foundation, a charitable trust funded by Arizona Senator John McCain. Arizona State University will build the nonpartisan and nonprofit education and research center, based in Washington, D.C., and with a physical presence in Tempe. Full establishment of the institute is planned for early 2013.

Already deep in the planning stages, the McCain Institute for International Leadership will focus on promoting character-driven leadership, as well as research and decision-making in the areas of humanitarian work, human rights and national security. It also will seek to promote rigorous debate, in the best American tradition of open inquiry, spirited discussion and practical action.

Higher education’s future depends on “innovation” centered on eliminating the traditional educational models of yesteryear. Arizona State University deserves both Conservatives and Liberals credit for creating the sustainable system of the future.

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