ASU Administrative Bloat Part of Higher Cost?

The Goldwater Institute recently released “Administrative Bloat at America Universities: The Real Reason for High Costs in Higher Education“.  It shows that administrative spending per student has increased by 46 percent between 1993 and 2007.  Dr. Crow of course feels this assessment is not fair.  I guess sometimes you get defensive when your nearly $750,000 salary comes into question as waste.

Chandler Chamber : State of the Schools Luncheon

I have been slow in getting down content I have been collecting. I am trying to change that but I just hate writing. Recently I attended the Chandler Chamber : State of the Schools luncheon (April 22nd). It was a panel discussion including…

Dr. David Schauer – Kyrene School District Superintendent
Barbara Border – Deputy Superintendent of AZ Dept of Education
Dr. Camille Casteel – Chandler School District Superintendent
Dr. Keith Hjelmstad – ASU Vice President
Dr. Linda Lujan – Chandler-Gilbert Community College President
Debra Thompson – Maricopa Community College Vice Chancellor

Below are questions and answer summary of the event from my view point.
Chandler – Has a if we can’t sustain we won’t add it mentality. Managing operations better as well as buses. Governing energy usage and trash collection. $14m short with Prop 100. $29m short without Prop 100.
ASU – Extensive reorganization to eliminate administrative overhead. Staff furloughs. Sustainability. Using federal stimulus monies. No on prop 100 means $48m more in cuts.
Maricopa – Not a lot of state funding so not very impacted yet. Allowing alternative payment options. Keeping prices low. Triple a bond rating one of only two higher ed groups in nation. Growing 11-25% without any additional funding. Doing more with less, working smarter not harder. Changing process and not core activities. Mostly admin services affected. Property valuations will hurt them in years to come.
Kyrene – Have strong reserves and have been doing prepayments. $6m with prop 100, $12m without it. Refuse to cut PE/Art, etc. Salary reduction and larger classes instead. Can manage the $6m.
State – Blah. Blah. Blah.

What have you implemented to improve?
ASU – Changing everything.
Maricopa – Blah. Blah. Blah. 21st Century Maricopa Initiative.
Kyrene – Family resource center (food, clothing, medical attention), Poverty rate went from 9% to 20%. Professional learning communities. Collective responsibility at grade level. Collaborative approaches. Response to intervention (provide custom additional support)
State – Put bioscience and engineering first. Integrating academics CTE. Arizona skill standards commission (75 Areas)
Chandler – Staff development programming. Invest in their people.

What can schools do better to prepare students for the workforce?
Kyrene – Engagement of students needs better. Stop telling kids what to do and instead get them involved in a self organized learning approach.
Chandler – Agrees with Kyrene. Focus more on STEM.
Maricopa – Blah. Blah. Blah. Listen to students feedback more.
ASU – The pipeline is weak. STEM focus, need to be better at preparing for industry. Start listening and adjust don’t be same dumb university.
State – Get students more well rounded. Creativity and innovation mentioned but no strategy currently. CTE blah. blah. blah. EVIT joint tech and Chandler satellite programs.

How can business community be involved?
Maricopa – Weigh in with legislature. Financial support.
Kyrene – Be education friendly.
ASU – Go back to school….
Chandler – Ask the tough questions. Talk to your local district. Volunteer. Mentor. Serve.
State – Thank the Southeast Valley for standing up for education. Sit on committees.

My quick assessment is that Arizona State University and the State of Arizona seemed the most prone to the drone responses of their leadership and had the least value and little clue about the state of things.  They marked everything that is wrong with education today.  That said, I thought that Dr. Hjelmstad was better than most speaking on behalf of ASU.  The community colleges are under the least pressure financially and understand their place to serve students transitioning to a four year university or to enter the workforce.  While they had canned responses more often than not, they seemed competent.  Dr. Castille seemed a bit conservative and too focused on the STEM and CTE initiatives, but appears prudent with their money and understands the need for change.  Dr. Schauer was understated in his responses but it is clear that he is the only one that sees a radical need for change in the current way we education children.  Oddly, he currently faces the smallest budget deficit.  Coincidence?

Importing Manufacturing.. Boon or Bust?

The largest Chinese manufacturer of solar panels, Suntech Power, has announced that it is opening a manufacturing plant here in Metro Phoenix.  This is fabulous news.  I think.  It is hard to tell what it really means.  What we know is that they are looking to open a plant in the area that will be somewhere around 80,000 to 100,000 square feet.  They will employ about 75 people right away and perhaps double that at the end of next year.  They plan to invest about $10 million.  Some have sighted this as little more than a brand exercise to alleviate concerns that green jobs will all be outsourced over seas.  Regardless of what it is the announcement saw Suntech Power’s value increase 13% or $2.7 billion.  You can see why this move makes sense for them.

This is very similar to the announcements of Google coming to Phoenix in 2005.  Everyone is trying to take credit for landing this whopper of a fish.  Arizona State University says that it’s awesome research prowess landing the deal.  The Greater Phoenix Economic Council is claiming that they were the ones that got this deal done.  Then there are the politicians that cite their aggressive tax credit deals are what made this announcement possible.

The truth is all of them are probably responsible.  The question is could they be doing things that are more productive for our economy?  As we saw, Google didn’t stick around.  They cited lack of quality engineering talent.  Maybe if ASU was less concerned with being an economic development engine and land developer and instead spent their energy on a top notch engineering school.  We lost a lot more than 75 jobs in the last 12 months.  If only, GPEC would have been more focused on strategies to diversify our economy in the last decade instead of traveling the world looking to recruit it in.  Politicians are quick to put out tax credits for large corporations to move operational arms here, but where are the tax credits for local job creation coming from entrepreneurs.  Short of the angel tax credit, there isnt much.

Suntech welcome to Arizona.  We are glad to have you.  We hope to help you succeed.  We hope to see you in the Southeast Valley.

U of A in Downtown Phoenix.. Does This Smell Funny?

There is a lot of talk about U of A building a new cancer center in downtown Phoenix.  There is no denying that this would help fulfill long ago given promises made by the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.  I am not sure where I stand on this.  I just know something is rotten in the state of Denmark.  U of A pushing so hard to be in Phoenix and Mayor Gordon seemingly so willing to help them find money to borrow.

Then all the talk of Maricopa Integrated Healthcare System (MIHS) partnering with U of A to create a medical center in downtown.  I want to be really optimistic because the thought of increased biotechnology sectors and increased health care are big wins.  However, I am reminded of the phrase of “if it sounds too good to be true it probably is”.  So help me out.  Tell me what I’m missing here or am I just being unduly paranoid?

The Arizona We Want Where Doing Takes Ten Years

Dr. Lattie Coor, started a Think Do Tank (Center for the Future of Arizona) after stepping down as president of Arizona State University in 2002.  I never really paid attention, but recently this Do Tank spun an initiative called The Arizona We Want.  It seemed light on substance and heavy on buzzwords, but I was open to being surprised.  I found a podcast from ASU talking with Lattie on the subject and decided to tuned in.

I learned that this Do Tank on day one decided to never tackle more than three issues and to always go after the most important.  Guess what the most important issue they could find in 2002 was?  Poor high school graduation rates in poor Latino schools.

So like all good “Do” tanks they first thing they did was lots of talking.  Years of it in fact.  What did this talking result in?  Hiring a consultant of course.  So they picked out Jim Collins author of Good to Great and hired him to help out.  Now that it is nearly 2010 they almost have that initiative in full swing.

Part of all this talking got them to the point where they found out that Arizona had no Vision Statement.  Of course, this took them until 2005 (3 years) to figure out.  So they decided to start phase 1.  What was phase 1?  Collect all the recent policy report’s (about 50) recommendations and decide what the values of the state should be based off that.

Fast forward to 4 years later, and they have decided that maybe they should ask the people instead.  So what did they do?  Hire another consultant of course.  This time they hired Gallup to help them collect what the people of Arizona want, the citizen voice.  This poll showed that we have a great “level of attachment” and of course this means everything is A OK right?  The Arizona Republic even did a big spread on the report, therefore it HAS to be going in the right direction.

The DO Tank now is going to take the next 18-24 months to talk it over.  At which time I suspect they will hire another consultant to help implement something.  If they wait long enough, the economy might already be in recovery and then they can just take credit for it.

At this point, I am not sure how Lattie can with a straight face consider this a *DO* anything.  I am all about patience and the long term vision, but seriously.. talking for 5 years?  WTF!  Never mind, that good leadership while getting feedback from the people isn’t about letting the majority be the guiding force for all decision making.

So what exactly do they hope to get from implementing this thing?

1. that every candidate for local/state government will frame what they want to do around this report and it’s goals

2. that all arizona organizations will align their goals to this report and it’s goals

3. that creation of coalitions and strategic alliances will form around this report and it’s goals

Well batman, let me break you the bad news.  Lofty goals like that don’t get done by hiring consultants or sitting around talking.  So either re-think your lame ass strategy or get off out of your little “Do Tank” and get to work.

One thing that was overwhelming from the study was that K-12 education needs serious fixing.  Everyone is concerned that graduates are not career/university ready or able to compete globally.  Oddly Gangplank decided to tackle this problem some 8 months ago and already has a number of active programs in place and is heading an East Valley educational summit to accelerate change in the system.  We had the unfortunate disadvantage of not being able to hire a consultant or run expensive studies.

The one thing that I found the most disturbing was that they are looking at ASU to be the primary implementer of change around this study and that they believe ASU will fix Arizona.  I’m not sure when this became the mission of ASU, last I checked they were still struggling providing quality talent to meet the current workforce demand.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The Empire Continues To Grow.. Is It Evil?

There was recently a somewhat glowing review of the ASU downtown campus in the Arizona Republic.  However, I think if you look at the numbers, they might be more scary than uplifting.  They seem to want to brag about a huge percent increase in enrollment over last year.  It is funny that originally they were reporting 11,500+ students and the Republic debunked how they were counting students and the actual number ended up being under 5,000.  Nothing like an “honest” doubling of numbers when you are trying to justify a $200 million investment.

I am not sure these numbers are much better.  They are reporting just over 7,000 students or roughly a 1,300 student increase.  That sounds pretty reasonable, but if you really dig.  You will find that 390+ were moved under a “reorganization of university classes” from the ASU West Campus and another 230 aren’t actually in a program offered downtown.  So about 620 of the 1,300 new students were potentially manufactured to help bring numbers in alignment to give hope of the 15,000 students by 2020 promised  in the beginning.

Truth be told I could care less if 5 people 500,000 people attended the downtown campus.  What I take the most exception to is the downtown campus tends to re-inforce Dr. Crow’s desire to build his legacy through building the ASU empire.  This is actually good to the bottom line of ASU, so he is doing a good job using that measuring stick.  On the flip side it’s bad for Arizona in general.  Let’s ignore the $40+ million Scottsdale sunk into SkySong and the dismal return they have seen there and lets look solely at the Downtown Campus.  You have $200 million in city bond, $71 million in a journalism school that left Tempe.  The City seems to justify it by saying another $34 million for the Civic Park and $1.4 BILLION in light rail and another $29 million in nursing school will make it pay off some day.  So in the last five years we are looking at $1.8 BILLION investment in education.  Yet, we scream that we are under funding the university system?

I’m concerned that council members believe that ASU should be the “major economic generator” downtown and that they try to link the promise to “opportunities with ASU” including the Convention center?  Shouldn’t they be most concerned with providing us a solid workforce?  Shouldn’t they be focused on educating students?  What about research? I’m also glad that we now measure economic impact with concrete factors like “downtown is now more vibrant”.

I won’t pick on ASU too much though.  They are doing what is right for them and their future.  However, would we have been better off devoting that money to better things?

Note I realize things like the light rail benefit more than ASU students.  I am not a moron.  They seem to indicate that all those things were necessary in getting students to take classes downtown though, so it has to be discussed.