Higher Education

Credit: Gage Skidmore

With college becoming increasingly difficult to afford as tuition increases and the perceived return on investment of a college degree falling, new and improved ways for students to find value in higher education and individuals that lead by example need to emerge.

In order for higher education to reach its highest potential, it needs leaders with revolutionary ideas and vision to set a new tone for others to follow.

In this aspect, Arizona State University President Michael Crow is exemplifying leadership within higher education today. Crow was appointed by ASU in 2002.

Since then, he has overseen constant innovation at the University. How has Crow been able to foster the changes necessary for ASU to accomplish all of this?

It comes down to one of the single most important things for a leader to possess—a clear and powerful vision.

A New Vision

Crow’s vision for ASU, which he has dubbed “The New American University,” is based on the principle of transforming the school into “a comprehensive knowledge enterprise dedicated to the simultaneous pursuit of excellence, broad access to quality education, and meaningful societal impact.”

While each of these aspects is important, what really makes this mission statement so important is the inclusion of the word “simultaneous.” What shows Crow’s vision is the concept that in order for ASU to truly make the innovations necessary to revolutionize education, they cannot focus on only one of these goals.

He understands that innovation does not work in a vacuum, and for it to be truly effective, there needs to be integration across multiple facets of an organization.

While the pursuit of excellence is a familiar concept for universities, Crow’s leadership is best exemplified through the other two fundamentals of The New American University mission: broad access to quality education and meaningful societal impact.

One of the best ways to achieve these ideals is to make college easier to attend, especially for students who need to continue working substantial hours while attending school, or nontraditional students.

By finding ways to get around or break down these barriers, you are able to work toward both of these ideals.

To Increase Access, Eliminate Barriers

One of the biggest steps Crow and ASU have taken in this regard has been through the launch and massive expansion of ASU Online, which is widely considered to be the gold standard in online education.

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Online degree programs make college substantially more accessible to students who are not able to attend or are not successful in traditional college courses environments.

What makes ASU Online exceptional is how it fits within Michael Crow’s vision by offering immensely broad access to higher education, displayed by its growth to over 15,000 enrolled students.


Crow’s commitment to increasing access to education goes beyond sheer numbers of people. It also extends to a high level of innovation in order to rethink how students approach and think about college.

ASU’s Global Freshman Academy does this by taking higher education even further outside the scope of traditional settings. In this program, students participate in classes online for only $45, and can then pay for course credit through ASU after passing the class.

Phil Regier – ASU’s Dean for Educational Initiatives and CEO of EdPlus – says this program gives students the opportunity to participate in college courses outside some of the typical pressures that present barriers to success.

“By allowing students to explore, learn and complete courses before applying or paying for credit, the Global Freshman Academy makes college far more accessible and approachable, reducing academic and monetary stresses that often accompany the enrollment progress.”

This is a radical shift in the way that universities approach potential students.
By giving students the opportunity to experience college education without these outside factors, Crow is truly delivering on the core ideals behind his New American University vision. This shows why he needs to be looked to as a leader for higher education today.

Not only has he brought radical change and innovation to a realm steeped in tired or outdated tradition, but he has been able to see these ideas through because of his strong vision and dedication.

Who is Leading in Higher Education?

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Zachary Evans
Zachary Evans is a freelance writer from Boise, Idaho, who covers a wide variety of topics he is passionate about. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in English with an Emphasis in Creative Writing from Boise State University in 2013, and now spends his time writing, reading, playing bass guitar, and thinking about UFOs and aliens.