November 19, 2005
Section: Opinions, Page: B6

*Article reprinted with permission from the Arizona Republic.*

A few decades ago, universities would have killed to have 50,000 students. Bigger was better back then. Now even the mammoth universities are on diets. They think the only way to boost student achievement is to reduce enrollment. But not Arizona State University . With 51,612 students, Tempe 's campus is now the largest in the nation. Larger than Minnesota and Ohio State . And it is going to keep growing for the foreseeable future. Enrollment on all four ASU campuses is expected to hit 90,000 students in 10 years.Somewhere in Minneapolis or Columbus, college administrators are thinking, "You fools!"

Ah, let 'em laugh. We have a plan.

It's called the New American University , and it's already making this a better, stronger place.

The basic idea is to make ASU more responsive to the community. That includes an increased focus on cutting-edge research and partnerships with the outside world. But it also means offering a cheap, quality education to a wide population.

Some people think President Michael Crow is daft to attempt such different missions at the same time. But he's making progress.

Crow has created several research centers, including the Biodesign Institute, Decision Theater and International Institute for Sustainability.

These new centers have attracted some heavy-hitting faculty members and the national attention that goes along with them.

At the same time, ASU has doubled the number of first-time freshmen on campus. Ethnic minorities are a record-setting 26 percent of the freshman class. We're letting the admission gates swing wide. Yet, somehow, the quality of students has continued to rise.

More National Merit Scholars, National Hispanic Scholars and Flinn Scholars are choosing ASU.

Yeah, yeah. US News and World Report ranks Minnesota and Ohio State higher than ASU. But neither of those schools has as detailed a plan for change. ( Minnesota is working on one that, oddly enough, looks quite similar to the ASU model.) In that respect, ASU is leading the way. As the nation's largest campus should.

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