Open Letter from ASU President Michael Crow

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To ASU Alumni: 

As valued members of our ASU community I want to share with you a message I sent our faculty and staff this past weekend. You are key supporters of ASU, and I hope to count on you to inform others on a topic that is being misrepresented in public dialogue.   

During the last week, there has been much debate in the media about ASU’s commitment to access and affordability prompted by a lawsuit filed by the Arizona Attorney General against the Arizona Board of Regents with respect to tuition rates. 

I wanted to share with you what I know from my 15 years here at ASU. We have made tremendous, measurable progress while working to make higher education affordable and accessible.

In the past, ASU was largely neither affordable nor accessible. It only appeared to be. For most of its history, ASU did not serve a diverse population of students and did not serve a population representative of the state of Arizona. 

We had a low-tuition, low-financial-aid model. We had low retention and graduation rates and high debt for students who graduated and those who didn’t. The biggest reason for this was because there was rapid change and growth in Arizona and our financial aid model was not built in such a way that would enhance student success and graduation rates. 
Fast-forward to 2017. We have re-engineered our entire operating model and have made unbelievable progress in every metric measurable. 

Demand for an ASU education has never been higher. This year, we welcomed more than 7,000 Arizona resident freshmen. That is a net increase of 1,700 Arizona freshmen since 2015. 

We have more diversity than ever, which benefits the state. More than half of our Arizona freshmen are minority students. This is critical to Arizona’s economy as we tap into a larger talent pool to keep up with the growing demands for an educated workforce to fill the jobs of the future. Access to an educated workforce also makes Arizona more attractive for new companies to set up operations here.     

Fifty percent of our students are from families at or below the median income level. In 1990, this number was 3 percent.

We have moved to a moderate-tuition, high-financial-aid model. The average net tuition and fees paid by Arizona resident undergraduate students at ASU is about $2,000 per year. That is after students receive grant and gift aid, which does not need to be paid back. For families with incomes under $50,000, it averages less than $200. This is historically, for ASU and for just about anyone, a very low net tuition. 

Our average debt for students is well below the average of public universities, and 40-50 percent of our students graduate with no debt at all. 

We have record retention rates. Retention rates are approaching 90 percent for in-state students and all freshmen. Historically, those figures have been in the 60-70 percent range. 

We have improved graduation rates more than 80 percent in the past 15 years, while emphasizing inclusion and student success. We now have one of the highest graduation rates of any research-grade university that admits A and B students to its freshman class (e.g., Purdue, Michigan State, Iowa State, Kansas, Oregon State). 

We are graduating more than 20,000 students per year, 8,000 of them in high-demand fields such as STEM, education and health.

We have attained the highest level of community college transfer students and community college transfer graduates.

We graduate more Native American graduates than all of the University of California system campuses combined (California has more Native Americans than any other state). 

Our average operating costs (cost per degree produced) are among the lowest in the country for any research university ($30,000-$40,000 less per degree than many). 

While doing all of this, the state of Arizona reduced its investments in the students from Arizona by 61 percent per student. Arizona ranks 49th in investment per capita in higher education, about $118 per resident (Wyoming is more than $700 per resident). Arizona also ranks 50th among all states in reinvestment in higher education since the Great Recession. 

Early news reports and early columns in the media take the simple “facts” (published tuition rates) in the suit as the “facts.” I am hopeful that the facts offered herein offer a broader context.

The Board of Regents is actively engaged in the lawsuit. The chairman of the board issued a statement last week in response to the lawsuit, which is worth reading for additional facts and context. 

I close with this: ASU is built on an unwavering commitment of service to the people of the state of Arizona. That includes providing the highest-quality public education at the lowest cost possible, producing highly prepared graduates and creating innovative solutions to societal problems. This is our charge, and this responsibility is ingrained in every single thing we do every single day. We will continue to do this no matter what.

Thank you for your support of ASU as we focus on the success of the students we serve.


Michael M. Crow
Arizona State University


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