An interview with Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University.

Arizona’s universities must produce 50 percent more graduates than they now produce to take advantage of the state’s economic opportunities, Arizona State University President Michael Crow says.

Crow said in an interview at a conference last week on education and workforce enhancement that many factors contribute to the shortage.

“We’re about 30,000 graduates per year short of what’s necessary to resupply and enhance our economic opportunities,” Crow said. “… So we have a long way to go to enhance our ability to have the economy get to the most competitive position.”

He said the state’s three public universities can cover about half that need with growth and improvement, and the rest must come from private colleges and for-profit institutions.

A big issue with producing needed graduates is that the K-12 system isn’t producing enough college-qualified students, he said.

The state's lack of “an educational attainment” mindset is part of the problem, he said, as are inequalities in the system that lead many K-12 students to underachieve.

“Equality is a factor in the pipeline in the sense that what we need is people capable of having access to that which will make them a 21st-century educated individual capable of contributing to a 21st-century economy,” he said. “And that means making sure schools can deliver that to every child.”

Crow suggested the state take its educational institutions “down to sort of zero base and reconsider the structure of everything so that we can attain these educational outcome objectives that we need to attain.”