San Tan Valley covets a university - East Valley Tribune: News

San Tan Valley covets a university

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Posted: Saturday, October 3, 2009 9:01 pm | Updated: 2:03 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

It has its own name and boundaries. Now a county supervisor wants a university campus to be on San Tan Valley’s horizon. That’s just the latest effort to bring higher education farther into the south East Valley, with Queen Creek still working to bring a “communiversity” to town.

It has its own name and boundaries. Now a county supervisor wants a university campus to be on San Tan Valley’s horizon.

That’s just the latest effort to bring higher education farther into the south East Valley, with Queen Creek still working to bring a “communiversity” to town.

ASU eyes downtown Chandler for campus

County Supervisor Bryan Martyn had an initial meeting with Arizona State University officials earlier this week to discuss San Tan Valley as a spot for the university’s expansion.

David Young, ASU’s senior vice president for academic affairs, confirmed meeting with Martyn.

However, Young said ASU is talking to several communities and nothing is concrete yet. University President Michael Crow named Chandler as an ideal location last week.

Assuming the Colleges@ASU concept is approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, Young said ASU would like to open one or two locations, which would be small campuses offering four or five degree programs. The goal is open by 2011.

Martyn said he’d like to attract some kind of university to San Tan Valley, whether it’s ASU or someone else.

“Ultimately we want to see increased opportunities for the citizens of Pinal County. We currently don’t have the ability to get a baccalaureate degree in Pinal County,” Martyn said.

“Just the fact that we’re talking about it not only validates San Tan Valley as an up-and-coming community, but it validates Pinal County as up and coming,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Queen Creek is still working with Rio Salado College and Chandler-Gilbert Community College to open a “communiversity” in late 2011, said Doreen Cott, Queen Creek economic development director.

A “communiversity” offers general education classes from community colleges and university classes from multiple institutions on one campus, allowing students to earn college degrees.

While Queen Creek and San Tan Valley are served by ASU Polytechnic and Chandler-Gilbert Community College, there aren’t any higher education facilities in either area’s boundaries. ASU Polytechnic is 6 miles from Queen Creek’s town center and 15 miles from Johnson Ranch at the edge of San Tan Valley.

They may be nearby, but Cott and Martyn both cited advantages to having degree-granting institutions inside their borders.

“It’s just an opportunity to provide high-quality, affordable education to residents in their community so they don’t have to drive to another community to meet those needs,” Cott said.

Higher education also plays into the focus of high-wage job growth by making sure there’s a skilled workforce in the community. And employers looking at the area would know employees could be trained on specific skill sets in town, Cott said.

Martyn, who grew up in Tempe, remembers ASU as a “signature campus” and said its influence lead to talk of college plans among his peers.

“We just need to plant that seed earlier, that it’s one of those opportunities that’s available. And having a university in your backyard is one of those ways to take ownership,” Martyn said.

“A lot of kids in Pinal County don’t have any connection to ASU. That’s in the big city, that’s in Maricopa County.”

San Tan Valley is a young community that opened three high schools in two years, making the demographics ripe for a university, Martyn said.

There is some work to be done before a university comes to town. Young said it’s important to study the area to identify not only a need for programs, but a demand from students who would actually sign up. ASU will be studying need and demand in several areas, he said.

Rio Salado will do the same in Queen Creek, Cott said.

But Young said rural communities especially are expressing an interest in being closer to sources of higher education.

And there is one big advantage San Tan Valley could have to attracting a university.

“That’s going to be one part of the community that grows significantly when the economy turns around,” Young said.

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