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ASU leading movement to change 'archaic' education system, Crow says

ASU is leading movement to make higher education more flexible, Crow says.
February 28, 2018

Flexible, lifelong learning is key to empowerment, ASU president tells panel on the future of work

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2018 here.

Technology has irreversibly disrupted the labor market and now the nation’s education system must change in order to keep up, according to the president of Arizona State University.

Calling the linear system of schooling archaic, Michael Crow said that people should be able to access education at any point in their lives so they can shift from career to career.

“It’s become hierarchical and socially elitist,” said Crow, who spoke at a daylong seminar Wednesday on the Tempe campus titled “Minding the Skills Gap: The Future of Education in the Future of Work.”

The model of K-12 school followed by a job, technical school or university and then a career is too rigid, he said.

ASU is trying to advance the concept of universal learners who can access any learning format at any point in their lives. The university would be a “knowledge core” that offers its resources in different ways — digitally or immersive, to typical and nontraditional students across the lifespan.  

“People change their careers, and people change their passions,” Crow said, giving as an example a welder who wants training to become a photographer.

“Or the welder gets replaced by a robot and now they need fewer welders, but ones who are trained to manage 50 robots,” he said.

“We’ve worked really hard to restructure the university to work in this modality.”

Julie Young, CEO of ASU Prep Digital, speaks at the American Enterprise Institute-sponsored session on the future of work. From left are moderator John Bailey, an AEI visiting fellow; Luke Tate, executive director of opportunity initiatives at ASU; Sethuraman Panchanathan, chief research and innovation officer at ASU; and Phil Regier, CEO of EdPlus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Gov. Doug Ducey also spoke at the workshop, which was sponsored by the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative think tank. He said that that state’s Achieve60AZ initiative, to increase the number of Arizona adults with college degrees, is one way to address the changes in the labor market. 

“We don’t know what the jobs in the future are,” he said. “We’ve seen so much dramatic change and disruption in this economy just in the last decade since the iPhone was introduced, but we know our citizens will need additional education and training.”

Ducey also noted the shortage of skilled laborers in the state and described the new initiative to train prisoners in the food-service and home-building industries so they have a chance at a good job upon their release.

“It’s not a second chance,” he said. “Talking to some of these individuals, it’s their first chance. If we don’t provide that chance, what choice do they have but to do something criminal?”

Both Ducey and Crow are optimistic about the future despite the inevitable changes that lie ahead.

“Finally we may find a moment in human history where the human body doesn’t have to be sacrificed,” Crow said. “We’ll get to a point where machines can do what machines do well and the full creative power of human beings can be realized.”

Earlier in the day, a panel of ASU experts talked about how the university is advancing education to shape the future of work. Among the innovations is ASU Prep Digital High School, an online charter school that also works with district schools to boost curriculum. The program’s goal is to prepare students to take college courses in high school.

“If you give them a taste of college in high school, they will be college students,” said Julie Young, deputy vice president of Education Outreach and Student Services and CEO of ASU Prep Digital High School.

“When they graduate, they won’t say, ‘Will I go to college?’ They’ll say, ‘I’m already in college, and how will I keep going?’ It’s a tremendous mind shift.”

The other panel members were Luke Tate, assistant vice president and executive director of opportunity initiatives at ASU; Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU; and Phil Regier, university dean for educational initiatives and CEO of EdPlus.

They discussed the future of a 45-year-old truck driver whose job will be eliminated by self-driving vehicles.

“We’re finding any routine profession can be displaced,” Regier said. “Auditing is the next profession that will be wiped out by automation. And radiographers. I can teach a machine to read an X-ray better than I can.”

He said that future workers must be taught skills that enhance creativity and connect across disciplines.

“The thing universities have to do is create people who can connect the dots, connect to other people, can coach and can lead teams,” he said. “That will not be displaced in the near future.”

For a video of the seminar, click here.

Top photo: ASU President Michael Crow (right) talks about how the university is adapting to the changing economy in a conversation with Gov. Doug Ducey at a seminar titled, "Minding the Skills Gap: The Future of Education in the Future of Work" at Old Main on the Tempe campus Wednesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Latino college attainment is focus for Excelencia in Education conference

ASU grows from 225 Latino freshmen in '85 to a quarter of fall '17 frosh class.
In Arizona, Latinos lag in higher-education attainment, graduation rate.
Wednesday reception downtown gives a preview of March 1-2 conference.
February 28, 2018

Nonprofit co-founder Sarita Brown, other leaders give preview of meeting; ASU's Crow says success of ethnic group is key to success of US economy

They are the nation’s largest ethnic minority, claiming nearly 18 percent of the population and 17 percent of the labor force, yet there is growing concern about the impact of Latinos not achieving the higher education needed to help move America’s economy forward.  

To provide a brief overview before their annual national meeting, being held this year in Phoenix on March 1-2, one of the nation’s leading Latino education advocacy groups held a reception Feb. 28 at the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Excelencia in Education, in partnership with Arizona State University, Maricopa Community Colleges and the Helios Foundation, organized the informational networking reception to frame the discussions they will have in the next two days about the state of higher-education attainment by Latinos.  

“Here we live in the fastest-growing county of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States with more than 4 million residents,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow during the reception. “And people of Latino heritage have a college-attainment level at one-third of the level necessary for the economy to be wildly successful at that high degree of outcome.”

For the U.S. to continue the social-mobility progress made in the past decades, it has to be unbelievably economically successful, Crow said.  The economy must grow by at least 4 percent on average for more than 83 years. That hasn’t happened in decades. 

“The reason we haven’t done it for decades is because we have not fully embraced the total talent and energy and creativity in our society at the level that we can,” Crow said.  “We haven’t gotten to the level of excellence that this new model for a country built on egalitarian access, built on the idea of all people are equal, built on the notion that we’re all here with the same rights and privileges and opportunities, and all we need is hard work and a chance.”

ASU has made significant progress in admitting Latino students. In 1985, the university had only 225 freshmen of Latino descent — in a state that at the time had more than 1 million Latino residents.

“That was not a sign of success in the design of a public university,” Crow said. “This last fall we admitted 3,000 (Latino) freshmen, a quarter of the freshman class, a tremendous transformation in the design of the institution.”

Arizona’s Latino population is young and growing. It is the sixth largest in the nation, accounts for 31 percent of the overall population and 44 percent of all K-12 students in the state. The median age for Arizona Latinos is 27, compared with 46 for white non-Hispanics.  

However, Arizona’s Latinos are lagging in higher education, according to U.S. Department of Education data from 2014-2015. Only 17 percent of Latino adults age 25 or older had attained an associate degree or higher, in contrast with 36 percent of all adults. The Latino graduation rate was also lower during that same time period at 40 percent. It was 49 percent for whites.

“We are committed to drive up educational attainment for what will be the new majority population,” Crow said.  “We believe that our institution is not successful unless the student body is completely representative of the socioeconomic diversity of our place. It is now; it never was before. Ever.” 

In overall numbers, ASU’s Tempe campus leads the state in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinos, followed by University of Arizona, Grand Canyon University and Northern Arizona University. But to make academic achievement happen on a grander scale, partnerships are necessary.

“We are excited to be a partner with you all,” said Crow, addressing the representatives from Excelencia in Education, Maricopa Community Colleges and the Helios Foundation.

Excelencia in Education has been working on accelerating Latino education for 14 years, said Sarita Brown, co-founder and president. The organization’s nine-member staff has engaged with leaders, institutions, program professionals and other stakeholders across the country for the cause of improving Latino education.

“The way we do our work is through research, policy and practice,” Brown said.

The team’s intent is to leverage their common cause and use what works by starting with data and driving it to the point of action, Brown said. Then they work with elected officials, communities and others who recognize that the country’s most precious resource is the “human resource.”

Top photo: Excelencia in Education co-founder and president Sarita Brown welcomes more than 130 academic and Latino leaders to the Latino Success in Higher Education program in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now