The Arizona Desert Lamp

The Arizona Student and the Three Universities

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 4 September 2008

An article yesterday in the Wildcat discussed the ever increasing size of the university. The meat of the article follows below:

In addition to overcrowding, the increased student body size raises questions among students regarding academic integrity and university identity. Shelton maintains, however, that the university has a distinct profile separate from sister schools ASU and NAU, and that academic quality is the university’s number one factor.

“The three Regents’ universities NAU, ASU and the UA have distinct profiles, characteristics and missions,” Shelton said. “They afford a wide range of educational opportunities to the people of Arizona … at the UA, we ensure that the quality of education remains high.”

Not all students see the distinction so clearly.

“I went to ASU for a semester,” [Rafael] Garcia said. “And I can tell you the UA is on its way. I think it’s still several years out, but if growth doesn’t get nipped in the butt soon, it will be like we are all walking around in Tempe.”

Arizona, being a fairly young state, doesn’t have the huge amount higher-ed diversity that can be found in Massachusetts, New York, or California. You have the Small School, the Big State School, and the Research University. This is a pretty common trichotomy around the country. Yet unlike the previously referenced fable, each person will find the university that is “just right,” depending on their preferences.

Shelton is right to assert that each school needs to emphasize its own role. NAU really has no chance of endangering this balance; it has, and will be, the Small School. ASU has taken the “big school” label with pride, clocking in with a new record of 66,000 (!) students this fall.

Thus far, UA has also done an admirable job: as the chart from the UA Fact Book shows, attendance has pretty much flat-lined around a healthy 35,000. Yet the UA will also be under the greatest pressure to “expand opportunity” to prospective students. But, to be brusque, that’s what ASU is for. As for those who decry the “large” classrooms with sixty students, perhaps NAU was the right fit. Hopefully, the UA will continue to increase its admission standards, maintain the population figures, and continue to achieve in fields, even those outside of the astronomy department.

Addenda: As a side note, does anyone know whether NAU’s school paper exists? The last update is an article entitled, “Bill to prohibit cultural groups” (I don’t like the bill discussed either, but that’s an idiotic way to summarize the proposal), from May 1, 2008.

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6 Responses

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  1. […] this focus on quality goes back to a previous issue of the UA’s role in the broader scheme of things. Howell emphasizes the role of quality, […]

  2. […] probably end up being around half of ASU’s enrollment. Again, going back to the “three schools” set-up, you don’t want UA to get so big that it essentially becomes ASU-lite; now […]

  3. […] Admission standards- The three-school system lives! This proposal speaks so much truth that it’s worth printing in its entirety: Raise […]

  4. […] NAU to hike tuition above $6,000, UA is the cheapest school in the state. That’s contrary to the three school system, in which Tempe Normal should be the behemoth churning out cheap degrees, NAU the little guy, and […]

  5. […] Essentially, ASU has attempted to be the top provider of undergraduate education and the top research university in the state; thankfully, it has failed in this task (for if succeeded, why bother with the UA? Why not just have ASU-South?). Now, Crow scampers back from Phoenix with his tail between his legs – hopefully, when he returns, he’ll take some time off and read old fairy tales. […]

  6. […] offered by the UA, you should be prepared to fork over more. Ideally, this would get us back to the Three University Model – and while this would probably make the UA itself much more expensive (especially for out-of-state […]


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