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Transforming higher education to better serve communities

January 26, 2021

ASU President Michael Crow discusses how degrees serve as engines for social mobility

Rising college costs, skyrocketing student debt and increasingly out-of-touch curricula are leading more Americans to question the fairness and value of higher education. What needs to change in order to transform American higher education into a stronger force for equity and innovation?

Zócalo Public Square, an Arizona State University Knowledge Enterprise, recently brought together leaders in the higher education space to discuss the top issues facing American higher education and the sector’s legitimacy crisis. During a candid conversation with Jennifer Ruark, deputy managing editor at “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” college and university leaders reflected on steps they think the sector should take to better serve as engines for social mobility.

ASU President Michael Crow said that at the core of many of the sector’s problems is a lack of communication by higher education institutions with the broader communities that institutions serve.

“We — the colleges and universities — have done a poor job of staying connected to everyone but our students,” Crow said. “What I mean by that is that we have done an outstanding job with those that come and graduate and move forward, and they’ve added much and contributed much. But I think that we’re doing a poor job at staying connected beyond that.”

President Crow talks about transforming higher ed

On Jan. 14, 2021, during a virtual event hosted by Zócalo, ASU President Michael Crow discusses the need to transform higher education to fulfill the needs of the communities universities and colleges serve.

As public goods, higher education institutions perform many functions beyond their core educational missions, and are intended to serve society by providing philanthropic contributions to the community, educating the future workforce, and conducting essential research in industries such as medicine and technology.

“At first blush, education might seem like such a private good,” said Pomona College President Gabrielle Starr. “That it’s only for you. But that isn’t true. Take the tragedy of Flint, Michigan, and the poisoning of the community’s water. Without higher education and the kinds of research and teaching that we do, there would be more children poisoned. Simple as that. I think we need to tell the truth more about what we can do, and we need to do it together.”

While the sector could benefit from coordinated communication about its social impact, institutions must also confront widespread problems that are largely of the sector’s making, particularly related to equity and access.

At the core of these hierarchy and equity issues is an exaggerated narrative of scarcity among higher education institutions.

“There are in fact enough seats in American higher education for every student who is qualified,” Starr said.

California State University Chancellor Joseph Castro echoed concerns about a false sense of scarcity.

“I do think there is a place for students who want access to higher education,” Castro said. “We just need to work together to ensure that those students who are place-bound, like the ones I used to serve in the Central Valley, that they have a place to go.”

“Our job is to try and make sure that everyone that wants to move forward with their life and obtain a college-level education has the opportunity to do that without barrier,” Crow said. “I think what’s happened, however, is that this idea of scarcity has infected everything. You get these social hierarchies. One of the things we have messed up in higher education is that we have allowed ourselves to be socially hierarchically structured in a ranked system of status-granting. That is deeply and negatively impacting our society and it affects everything, and we’ve got to figure out how to fix that.”

When asked if he could wave a magic wand and change one thing about higher education, Crow said that he would change how institutions are ranked and the criteria used to evaluate them.

“No more rankings based on inputs,” Crow said. “Changing the criteria used by these rankings would lead to massive changes in terms of where institutions place their priorities.”

Founded in Los Angeles in 2003, Zócalo Public Square is an ASU Knowledge Enterprise that publishes ideas journalism and convenes events. The ASU Knowledge Enterprise trains and supports entrepreneurs, leads the university's economic development activities, engages with corporate partners and international development agencies, and facilitates technology transfer.

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Edson College launches nursing program at ASU at Lake Havasu

Program will begin in fall 2021 pending Arizona State Board of Nursing approval.
January 26, 2021

Bachelor of Science in nursing program will begin in fall 2021 to help keep up with health care demands in Mohave and LaPaz counties

The ASU at Lake Havasu admissions team can breathe a huge sigh of relief, because they’re offering a nursing degree later this year, pending Arizona State Board of Nursing approval.

And that makes their top executive very happy.

“Every week since I’ve been here, our admissions office gets phone calls from students and community members asking if we offer a nursing program,” said Carla Harcleroad, who was hired as the ASU at Lake Havasu director in April 2020. “Now when they call we can say, ‘Yes, we have nursing!”

Woman in blue blazer

Carla Harcleroad

Beginning fall 2021, ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation will offer the Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) at the Lake Havasu location. The new program helps fill immediate job growth needs in the health care field both in Lake Havasu City and in Mohave and La Paz counties at large, an area that exceeds a population of 200,000.

Katherine Kenny, associate dean of academic affairs for Edson College, worked over a seven-month period with Harcleroad to create a program for Havasu. She said a lot of care and thought went into the endeavor.

“Our programs are in direct response to our national workforce needs and right now, there is a large need for rural health care,” Kenny said. “They are desperate for nurses, and I don’t see that need decreasing when the pandemic is over.” Kenny added that when nurses are educated in a smaller community like Lake Havasu City, they are more likely to be hired upon graduation and stay there.

But there is also great flexibility in the field, said Salina Bednarek, a clinical assistant professor and director at Edson College.

“Nursing in general is highly sought-after because graduates can pursue a variety of fields with this degree,” Bednarek said. Besides a hospital setting, she said, registered nurses can work at public schools, private corporations or nonprofits, mental health facilities, rehabilitation centers, older adult care, outpatient care centers and telemedicine.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses earn a median annual salary of $73,300 with some earning as much as $180,000 annually.

Students will have two possible pathways to the BSN: Those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in another field will be able to pursue nursing degee prerequisites at ASU at Lake Havasu through in class or remote course offerings. Students working on their first degree will also be able to complete the same prerequisites. Once admitted to the nursing program, students complete 50 nursing-specific credits. Initially, Havasu students will visit Phoenix at various points during their coursework for simulation and experiential learning at the Edson College Grace Center.

Harcleroad said Edson will offer the BSN at the ASU at Lake Havasu tuition rate, which is a lower rate compared to other ASU locations.

“It’s an incredible deal and opportunity for our students and community members,” Harcleroad said. “Part of our mission is to provide the most affordable education possible, and we feel like we’ve delivered on this promise.”

The program has space for 32 students in the fall 2021 cohort, and with current demand for nursing education, the program is expected to reach capacity each year.

Learn more about the nursing degree.

Top photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images

Reporter , ASU Now