The Arizona Desert Lamp

Public Ivy FAIL

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 10 December 2008

Connor expressed concern over the fact that our tuition is now lower than ASU’s, a divergence from the usual Three University Model. This, however, was something that I saw as easily remedied — just raise admission standards. Maintain the current 37,000 or so student population, and raise requirements as the school’s popularity grows.

So naturally, this article on standards in the Wildcat brought me no comfort:

Analysis shows the average SAT scores of all UA applicants in the past four years have dropped about 20 points with non-resident applicants’ scores decreased by more than 40 points, according to documents obtained from the UA Admissions Office via a public records request.

Earlier this year, President Robert Shelton touted the university’s successes in enrolling the largest, most diverse class in its history. Despite the large size and diversity, it appears the latest pack of Wildcats are not on par academically with previous classes.

In addition to lower SAT scores, the newest class’ high school grade point average was the lowest in the past four years, according to UA Admissions.

Make no mistake about what is happening here: tuition standards are being lowered, the population of the school is increasing, and programs are being forced to adjust accordingly. If this doesn’t sound familiar, it should.

Yet University administration does not seem to be perturbed in the slightest by this. In fact, Shelton praised this fact, putting that bastard-child goal of “diversity” ahead of academic achievement. Meanwhile, Dean of Admissions offers an outrageous excuse for these results:

“Arizona has the lower GPA because we are a state with abysmal funding of higher education,” said Paul Kohn, vice provost for Enrollment Management and Dean of Admissions. “If you were to compare us with California, or some other state where the state actually makes investments in financial aid as well as higher (education) overall – at a rate that’s much higher than Arizona – you’ll find that those schools can be more selective.”

What schools might those be? Could it be the University of Michigan — which reduced its reliance on state funding dramatically, and yet increased its quality? Or could he be thinking of another “original” Public Ivy, the University of Virginia, which became the first school to have more private than public funding back in 2004?

What Kohn may have been trying to get at was this absurd policy from the Board of Regents:

The rise in student population can be attributed to a mandate established by the Arizona Board of Regents, which requires the state’s public universities to continue to increase their populations, lest they receive a cut in funding.

This is ridiculous. The Three University Model is damn near a manifesto here, and for good reason — it provides Arizona students with in-state options of a large, undergraduate-focused institution (ASU); a research-oriented, relatively elite institution (UA); and a small, liberal arts college (NAU). By instituting this policy, the ABOR threatens to turn the UA into an ASU-Tucson, a huge campus with little quality differentiation from our neighbor to the north. This is another good reason for the UA to run like hell towards private sources of funds. This quantity-based method of funding education, completely devoid of concerns about quality of education, is insane. We should become as little dependent upon it as possible.

Yet there is good news in the article: even as we punish them like the dey-mn furriners that they are, out-of-staters keep coming back for more:

More non-resident students are being given that chance. The university admitted 40 percent more out-of-state students this year than it did four years ago. Comparatively, the number of Arizonans admitted this year was only 6 percent more than in 2004.

. . .

Kasey Urquidez, UA director of recruitment, said there is not any particular effort to gain more non-resident students, stating that the UA typically admits about 30 percent non-residents and 70 percent residents.

“It seems more out-of-staters are taking us up on our offer,” Urquidez said.

. . .
Urquidez attributes UA’s popularity to the ease of applying. Much of the university’s business with applicants is done online, something that sets it apart from other public universities, Urquidez said.

In a word, no. The balmy weather or the bodacious women are far better reasons on which to decide on a school. The truth is, even with tuition going sky-high, the UA is a pretty good bargain. It continues to be very generous with scholarships, which helps to foster a crust of really talented students who’d rather not have debt for both undergrad and grad school. The school also is not bad in the scheme of things, and still can compete (if not quite equally) with the Berkleys and Evanstons of the world. And yes, the weather really does help, a fact that should not be underrated nor dismissed as ancillary. You try heading to the library to study for finals in sub-zero weather.

If the UA wants to be serious about remaining a top public university, it must hold strong on tuition standards. Otherwise, look forward to the replacement of Wilbur with Sparky in 2035.

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6 Responses

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  1. […] there is some room. And in light of reports of incoming classes with lower scores than previous classes, increasing the proportion of […]

  2. […] made a lot of noise about adopting the Michigan model here at the Lamp, but launching a campaign to raise […]

  3. […] New American University.” In wake of the UA’s plan (to be fair, dictated by ABOR) to increase enrollment, it seems that administration is intent on turning the UA into […]

  4. […] the most elite. If the UA was truly concerned about retention, then it certainly wouldn’t be increasing its student body size with lower quality […]

  5. […] the word “quality” seven times in his memo, yet under his watch the class of 2012 is larger and dumber than its […]

  6. […] something to be said for diversity in higher education offerings. Increasingly, the UA is becoming ASU-South; and while this may help the state in adhering to this throwaway phrase, it punishes her best […]


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