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ASU leads in education, research efficiency

August 16, 2010

Arizona State University has become one of the nation’s most efficient producers of college graduates and cutting-edge research. The university excels not only when measured against a peer group of other nationally ranked institutions, but also when measured against all other public research universities.

The university’s mission consists of two elements: educating students who complete their work and are awarded degrees, and conducting research that advances knowledge, creates jobs and drives economic growth in Arizona.

According to the most recent available information, ASU produced 26 undergraduate and graduate degrees per 100 students enrolled on a full-time-equivalent basis. This level of degree production, which has gradually increased over the last five years, is close to the 26.5 average of the 15 institutions identified by the Arizona Board of Regents as ASU’s peers.

ASU’s success in producing graduates has been achieved in a highly cost-effective fashion. ASU’s total spending per degree produced in fiscal year 2008, the most recent measurement year, was $54,878 for a four-year degree. This amount is more than 14 percent lower than the average spending per degree at all public research universities and 30 percent lower than spending at ASU’s peer institutions.

If ASU had spent at the average level for all public research universities in 2008, it would have cost students and their families, and Arizona taxpayers about $130 million more to produce the same number of degrees. Had the university spent at the level of its peers, it would have required $340 million more for the same level of production.

“The fact that a skilled, innovative work force is critical to the recovery and future growth of the Arizona economy is common knowledge,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “What is not well known is the extraordinary efforts we have made at ASU to deliver an excellent education at an unparalleled cost.”

Since 2002, the university has systematically revamped its processes, delivery methods and organizational structure while, at the same time, enhancing instructional quality and student services. It also has streamlined its organization, eliminating management levels and cutting administrative positions. 

The university increased its efficiency by an additional 10 percent in fiscal year 2009, reducing the cost of each degree produced to $49,600 through strategic organizational changes designed to cut costs in response to the recession while preserving the quality of the educational experience.

The second major element of ASU’s mission is research. In addition to the benefits derived from the research work itself, sponsored research contributes hundreds of millions of dollars to the state economy each year and creates thousands of Arizona jobs. Research is primarily funded by federal, local, and private parties interested in specific subject areas.

In this area also, ASU has significantly outperformed its peers, with annual sponsored research expenditures growing almost 71 percent from fiscal year 2004 to 2008, or more than double that of peer institutions during the same time period. ASU’s research expenditures have doubled since fiscal year 2003 to more than $310 million annually. The growth in federally sponsored research at ASU rose by 57 percent over that same time period, compared to just 13 percent at peer institutions.

ASU’s ABOR-approved peers are Florida State University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University (Main Campus), the University of California- Los Angeles, the University of Connecticut, the University of Illinois (Urbana/Champaign), the University of Iowa, the University of Maryland (College Park), the University of Minnesota (Twin Cities), the University of Texas (Austin), the University of Washington (Seattle), and the University of Wisconsin (Madison).