Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Mesa's Higher Education Opportunity

The Arizona Board of Regents are working on plans to make higher education more affordable to the students of Arizona. As part of this plan, they are exploring a whole cadre of options including starting a fourth university, converting a community college into a 4 year university, or working with the community colleges to offer the first two years of classes.

This is great news for Mesa, which could be poised to take full advantage of this movement and reach for an even bigger piece of higher education. First, Mesa Community College is the largest of the 10 community colleges in the Maricopa Coummunity College system. If the Regents are looking to buy and convert a community college, its the natural place to start. It is located across the street from a hospital which would help a medical program. It is also in the heart of the fiesta district, which is looking for a revival and would welcome an influx of students and student housing. If the regents decide to go this route, MCC should be a 4 year college.

If they decide to start splitting universities and decide to spin off NAU Yuma, why not do the same thing for ASU Poly? It is an issue that has been mentioned in the past. The Polytechnic campus is far too important for the future of the Gateway area to be sacrificed to keep the other ASU campuses whole. Polytechnic offers training to a particular workforce that isn't served by the other universities, and they could be the affordable education option for the entire southeast valley. If the regents are unwilling to spin off Polytechinic, perhaps they should sell it to a private university to help with their cashflow issues and allow someone else to operate it.

Finally, if the regents do decide to go in a completely different direction and build a fourth univesity, there should be a play to locate it in Downtown Mesa. We can see what ASU has done for Tempe, and downtown Mesa could receive a similar revival and preservation with something like that. In addition, it could keep all or part of the campus on the light rail line, which would further help development around transit throughout Mesa.

Any of these options would be a serious benefit to Mesa. However, in the end, they are probably likely to go with the path of least resistance and just move to having the community colleges handle the first two years of education, then the students would move on to the main campuses.

1 comment:

Heath Reed said...

I do not like the option of 2 year community college then off to the other schools. It works that way anyways. Problem is, we do not have enough schools or options at the 4 year schools. I do not see downtown becoming a viable option because it is not enough land. maybe for a smaller university at the scale of GCU.

I think what needs to happen is that MCC needs to go to a university, the rejects, opps, I mean regents should look at a university in Prescott and Mesa needs to focus on getting a private university in downtown. Oh well, hopefully they do not do the 2 year thing.