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Higher Ed in the News

State universities face cuts in ambitions

March 21, 2009

When Michael Crow became president of Arizona State University seven years ago, he promised to make it 'The New American University,' with 100,000 students by 2020. But this year, Crow's plans have crashed into new budget realities, raising questions about how many public research universities the nation needs and whether universities like Arizona State, in their drive to become prominent research institutions, have lost focus on their public mission to provide solid undergraduate education for state residents.

Have public research universities lost focus of their public mission?

Arizona State's economic problems have been particularly dramatic. The university has eliminated more than 500 jobs, including deans, department chairmen and hundreds of teaching assistants. Last month, Crow announced that the university would close 48 programs, cap enrollment and move up the freshman application deadline by five months. Every employee, from Crow down, will have 10 to 15 unpaid furlough days this spring.

Budget picture varies by state

Layoffs and salary freezes are becoming common at public universities across the nation; the University of Florida recently eliminated 430 faculty and staff positions, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, laid off about 100 employees, and the University of Vermont froze some administrative staff salaries, left open 22 faculty positions and laid off 16 workers.

The picture varies by state. Dozens of states, hit hard by the recession, made midyear cuts in their financing for higher education. And yet, budgets are largely intact at some leading research universities, like the University of Michigan.

Finding the right balance between improving academic quality and serving state residents is not easy.

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Read the full story from The New York Times.