This semester is my final semester at Arizona State University. It is also, of course, the same semester I managed to discover my passion for creative writing and higher education. Never one to follow, I always seem to take the long way around, so it only makes sense that after four years I would decide what I want to do with my life. I guess sometimes all it takes is an inspiring English course and an internship with ASU’s Office of University Initiatives, to point a student in the right direction. Thus, as I finish the semester at ASU I would like to reflect on my experiences and share what I have learned through this blog, in the hopes that I can help other students find themselves and their place in a university.
When I was reading The State Press the other morning I came across a comic strip that probably reflects the way most students view a research university. In the comic, a student is expressing his frustration that tuition increases as a result of the salary of high profile research professors that have come to work for ASU. I would not blame anyone for thinking this because a couple of months ago the same thoughts went through my mind. Unfortunately, we are just not presented with enough information about what a New American University is and the reasons it benefits our lives. A disconnect exists between the information students receive about research universities and the way in which they interpret that information. As a result, we pass through our education without taking the time to learn how a university works.
Tuition increases, programs and services are cut, furloughs occur, and student debt rises. While it’s easy to blame President Crow and others for our financial woes, perhaps we would do better to persuade multiple stakeholders, including our state legislature, to solve a complex financial puzzle: balancing our budget while remaining committed to higher education. Arizona’s general fund allocation on a per student basis has declined 25 percent. In 2009, the state cut $191.5 million from higher education funding. If that wasn’t bad enough the 2010 proposed cut to all Arizona universities totals $141.5 million.
Last month Jonathon R. Cole, sociologist, writer, and former Columbia provost, visited ASU to discuss his new book The Great American University, in which he explains the enormous impact of research universities on society. If you did not get a chance to attend his presentation I would suggest viewing the webcast online or picking up a copy of his book. “The American research university is arguably the world’s most powerful engine of innovation and discovery. Yet it is widely misunderstood and in danger of losing its capacity to drive economic progress and improve our lives,” writes Cole. Did you know that an electric toothbrush, Gatorade, the ATM, and a cervical pap smear all emerged from discoveries made in university research departments? Are you aware that simply by graduating from a top institution the value of your degree increases? While there is simply not enough space to share everything I have learned, I can tell you that above all else a high-quality undergraduate education is essential for individual social mobility and the advancement of social and economic welfare. Although this seems easy enough to understand, our current misinterpretation of tuition increases demonstrates that we do not see ASU as a mechanism for improving society and ourselves.
I urge you to pay attention to the phenomenal change taking place beneath the original framework of brick and mortar and to become an advocate for higher education. Voice your opinion in the community. Arizona State University is a force that creates meaningful change.
ASU’s vision begins with the idea that every student has the capacity to succeed. Rather than embracing the world as it should be, or how it was, it should be embraced for how it is. Transforming education requires innovation and a willingness to take risks. A great university must provide opportunities and access to talented students who may not have the means to attend without aid. A great university must have excellence in teaching and excellence in research. A great university will impact the world. I want to be a part of this university, do you?
This post was submitted by Amanda Russell.