ASU and EdX take a Step in the Way of the Future

April 23, 2015

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

I may have been a bit more skeptical about ASU’s “New American University” rhetoric than the average bear back during the Goldwater days. I tried to resist poking fun at various foibles. Once. It didn’t suit me. Now however I am going to turn over a new leaf and give them props for doing something interesting. From the New York Times:

Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest universities, is joining with edX, a nonprofit online venture founded by M.I.T. and Harvard, to offer an online freshman year that will be available worldwide with no admissions process and full university credit.

In the new Global Freshman Academy, each credit will cost $200, but students will not have to pay until they pass the courses, which will be offered on the edX platform as MOOCs, or Massive Open Online Courses.

“Leave your G.P.A., your SATs, your recommendations at home,” said Anant Agarwal, the chief executive of edX. “If you have the will to learn, just bring your Internet connection and yourself, and you can get a year of college credit.”

Man it is going to kill me to admit this but:


Sun Devils Crushed by Number Six Finish in Playboy Party Rankings

April 19, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

It was bad enough when Arizona scored second to the bottom in the K-12 Race to the Top competition, but Arizona State University officials and students reacted with dismay, shock and outrage as Playboy Magazine named another university “Top Party School.”  The University of Texas at Austin took first place, and ASU placed a shocking sixth place.

“I’m stunned…I really just don’t know what to say,” stated Justin Bongwater, an ASU 8th year sophomore. “I mean sixth place? SIXTH *#@&*!@# PLACE?!? Dude, that just can’t be right. We threw everything we had into this ranking! EVERYTHING!!!! Rock bottom admission standards! Embarrassingly low graduation rates! Hell, the mayor of Tempe bragged that we have the highest beer consumption rates in the world!  A MAYOR said that dude! If the government said it, it has to be true!”

Campus officials promised to redouble their efforts by expanding recruiting among students from the Midwest who like beer, sunshine and universities that do not require the SAT exam. Privately, they admitted that they thought that last year’s Daily Show video should have sealed the competition, and that it may have caused some complacency on campus. “When you get called the ‘Harvard of Date Rape’ you might tend to coast a bit,” a highly placed source explained.

University of Texas roving ambassador Matthew McConaughey will accept the award in a public ceremony at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills Friday night.


Mismatching Students and Institutions is a luxury Arizona can no longer afford

February 11, 2010

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has been encouraging the universities to develop lower cost alternatives to getting a four-year degree. But, the state is bankrupt and will not be able to find additional money to help create such options.

I have an idea that would help, and it will not cost a dime.

A consulting firm recently presented a report to the Maricopa County Community College District Governing Board with disturbing information about completion rates. The report found that 82 percent of community college students aim to get a degree, but only **11 percent** of them have done so after three years. This completion rate puts MCCCD in the bottom 12 percent of all community college systems nationwide, the report says.

When we go to the university level, the results are little better. The Education Trust’s database of university statistics reveals the four-year graduation rates of Northern Arizona University, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University to be 28.4 percent, 32.7 percent and 27.7 percent, respectively.

Arizona’s system of higher education is doing an extremely poor job in matching students with colleges. There is a fine line between giving students an opportunity to seek an education despite previous academic failure, and simply using students as financial cannon fodder. Arizona obviously went screaming past that fine line many years ago.

We are not doing students any favors by encouraging them to run up thousands of dollars in debt to pay for school, only to flunk out. In addition, taxpayers should not subsidize six-year odysseys of self-discovery that half of the time fail to result in a university diploma

Arizona’s community colleges and universities should raise their admission standards for new students. Some, perhaps most, of the students flunking out of ASU, UA and NAU ought to be attending community colleges. Community colleges traditionally focus on remediation and are less costly to students and taxpayers.

If we would properly match students to institutions, our higher education system would both save taxpayers money and serve students better.

Those in higher education often are quick to point an accusing finger at the K-12 system for not preparing enough teenagers for college, and rightly so, but no one is forcing them to admit utterly unprepared students.

While we are at it, we might want to do something about K-12 to lower the flood of unprepared students heading to failure in higher education. High-schools, community colleges and universities should all raise their standards.


The Daily Show on Arizona State University

May 18, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

So Arizona State asked Barack Obama to deliver the commencement speech, but decided not to offer him an honorary doctorate, opining that his body of work was yet to come, and thus apparently did not merit such an honor.

The Daily Show picked up on this, and well, judge the clip for yourself. I’ve been critical of ASU for a lousy graduation rate and offering staggeringly unseemly bribes overly generous National Merit Scholarships in an effort to create the appearance of academic quality. Get the Daily Show mad at you, however, and they will drop the “Harvard of Date Rape” cluster-bomb on your village without a second thought.

It’s almost enough to make me feel sorry for ASU (once I got my breath back and dried my eyes) but when you lead with your chin, you can’t credibly complain when someone breaks your jaw. When you accept 92% of applicants and have a 28% 4-year graduation rate, it just might indicate that you are using a large number of ill-prepared students as financial cannon-fodder.

Yes, yes-it’s their choice, everyone gets an opportunity, yadda yadda yadda.  That’s all fine until you finance these six-year-beer-soaked-odysseys-of-self-discovery-resulting-in-a-graduation-about-half-the-time-vacations-from-reality with money forcibly extracted from other people. Many of the third party payers never went to college and are struggling to make ends meet.   What choice did they get?

(edited for typos)


Please Ignore the Huge Pile of Payola Behind the Curtain

March 18, 2009

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The New York Times turned in a must read article on Arizona State University President Michael Crow:

He quickly made a name for himself, increasing enrollment by nearly a third to 67,000 students, luring big-name professors and starting interdisciplinary schools in areas like sustainability, projects with partners like the Mayo Clinic and Sichuan University in China, and dozens of new degree programs

But this year, Mr. Crow’s plans have crashed into new budget realities, raising questions about how many public research universities the nation needs and whether universities like Arizona State, in their drive to become prominent research institutions, have lost focus on their public mission to provide solid undergraduate education for state residents.

I love the way the term “quality” is used by Dr. Crow. Maybe it is just me, but it certainly appears to me that ASU has been seeking to create the appearance of quality more than the reality. As JPGB readers will recall, ASU’s four year graduation rate is 28%, lowest among the peer institutions as identified by the Education Trust.

Case in point, National Merit Scholars- ASU has a lot of them. But **ahem** there is a little problem identified by the New York Times:

Arizona State University recruits National Merit Scholars nationwide with a four-year $90,000 scholarship, a package so generous that Arizona State enrolls 600 National Merit Scholars, more than Yale or Stanford. Through the cuts, Mr. Crow has kept that program, even while proposing to cut a scholarship for Arizona residents with high scores on state tests, a proposal the state regents turned down.

In their promotional materials, ASU boasts of the number of National Merit Scholars they enroll, but doesn’t bother to mention the obscenely large bribe offered in order to get those National Merit Scholars. If I wanted to be cruel, I’d compare this package to another university and…

Okay, so I’m cruel: the Education Trust identified the University of Indiana Bloomington as the highest performing peer institution for Arizona State based on 4 year graduation rates (over 50% for IU). Last year, their National Merit Scholars had an average package worth $13,609 each.

For some reason, ASU feels compelled to offer almost seven times as much as IU. Maybe the weather is just better in Indiana. Oh wait, you don’t have to hang around at ASU in the summer, so it can’t be the weather.

Well, um, some people don’t like palm trees…