Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2009

Michael Crow

Arizona State has long owned a spot in rankings of American party schools, but on Michael Crow's watch, the university is clambering up another kind of list. He rode into office in 2002 vowing to build a New American University that embraced students with a wide range of backgrounds and abilities while giving élite public schools a run for their research money. "We need to find some way where you can match excellence and access in the same institution," he says. Crow has found several: during his tenure, the university has more than doubled its yearly research spending, boosted its roster of National Merit Scholars 61% and claimed a spot on three separate rankings of America's best colleges. Meanwhile, the number of low-income Arizona freshmen enrolling each year has grown nearly ninefold and the population of minority students has jumped 62%. Crow admits his more-is-more philosophy goes against the grain in a sector where low acceptance rates and small class sizes are icons of excellence. But he says the results have brought the skeptics around. "We're done with trying to raise money for putting brass buttons on the back of our chairs," he says. "What people really want from their university is, 'Help us with these things that are most important to us.' " —Laura Fitzpatrick