College Growth

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

About college growth:

But few states have experienced student growth as rapid as Arizona’s. In 1990, about 31,000 students graduated from the state’s public high schools. By 2005, there were nearly 52,000 graduates. This growth is expected to continue, even if the local high schools do nothing to solve their dropout problems.

Although there are two other state universities — the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University — Arizona State, with campuses in Tempe and three other sites in metropolitan Phoenix, has agreed to absorb 90 percent of the additional demand. That means it will continue to focus largely on in-state residents. Over the last 10 years, in-state students have made up 72 percent to 76 percent of the student body.

Antonio Garcia, a professor of bioengineering, said that he supported the university’s intention to expand and improve, but that it needed to continue hiring more professors to lower its student-faculty ratio, currently 22 to 1.

Some students and professors question whether it is possible to handle so much growth so quickly. “Ninety thousand students is a lot,” said Trevor Bergeron, a sophomore. “Right now it’s pretty huge.”

The same article claims that ASU is at 64,000 students. Western states have seen upward enrollment trends for the past ten years. What will the ratio be between retirees and job hunters in a few years?

I’ve visited the ASU campus a few times and it’s a wonderful place; it doesn’t feel massive. Western universities have a much different feel than do those in New England. Orders of magnitude are experienced differently, such as at New Mexico State, where the distant mountains wall the light and band it pink and orange against the purple sky. But walking to class is walking to class, unless you must do it uphill as one must at Cornell. Sixnut, for me, is just the right size.

See Dean Baker for more on the economic context of my last remark about jobs. Economic scales do matter in enrollments.


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