Arizona State Tops US News Most Innovative Schools List


Arizona State University has made it to the top of the list of “most innovative schools,” a new category featured in the US News and World Report college rankings for 2016.

The school made it to the top based on a survey of peers.  Ten institutions who have made innovative improvements throughout campus life, including in curriculum, technology and facilities, were nominated by college presidents, provosts, and admissions deans across the country.

“ASU provided us with so many opportunities to excel in entrepreneurship and other projects,” said Jared Schoepf, who was on a team of undergraduates who launched a startup called SafeSipp, which designed and produces water-purifying devices for developing countries.  “We went to several competitions and we realized that ASU gave us that upper edge to compete.”

ASU has launched a number of unique programs in the last few years, including the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, which offers full tuition reimbursement to employees of the coffee company who complete an online degree program with the school.  More recently the school initiated a Global Freshman Academy that allows students to take online courses and pay after completion if they decide they want the college credits, which cost $200 per hour.

Hundreds of freshmen at the school are participating in a pilot program this year called ProMod.  The project-based program offers instruction in general education combined with each student’s area of study.  Students who participate also must handle real world problems.  Faculty are tracking whether students who participate in the program are more likely to earn a degree than students who take traditional classes.

ASU President Michael Crow has continually made a push for innovation and entrepreneurship as a major part of his vision for the school.  Crow wrote in his book “Designing the New American University” that universities need to be innovative “on all fronts” to continue to compete in the global market, writes Anne Ryman for AZCentral.

However, there have been a number of complaints concerning the new programs at the school.  Parents and students have expressed their criticism over tuition increases that have resulted in doubled tuition for a number of students.  Faculty have also expressed their fears that certain academic areas are being overlooked in favor of areas such as science and sustainability.

Stanford, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of Maryland – Baltimore County, and Georgia State rounded out the top 5 for the most innovative schools list.  Of the 28 schools featured, half are public institutions.

The magazine releases the rankings on an annual basis, comparing over 1,500 institutions across a variety of topics.