ASU "Leading the Pack," Says Magazine, Even Though State's Money Woes are Slicing Programs

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Arizona State University is "leading the pack in improvements and innovative changes," according to the latest issue of U.S. News and World Report magazine.

Though ASU was only as the 121st best national university -- same ranking as last year -- the Valley institution ranked fifth out of 77 of the most "up-and-coming" colleges.

Hasn't the magazine heard -- the state's broke. Dozens of ASU's programs have been cut and many others consolidated. Hundreds of job positions have been cut, long furloughs ordered and it may take special legislation just to keep popular satellite campuses open.

Those money woes, you'd think, will tend to eclipse the "improvements and innovative changes" going on, unless the innovation is in the form of learning to live on a shoestring budget.

The rankings were based on a survey of college officials across the nation, many of whom must feel hopeful about the good things still going on at ASU despite the economic problems.

Excitement about cutting-edge research, such as turning algae into jet fuel, for example, may soon be sucked away. According to the Arizona Republic last week:

Other ventures that are in jeopardy include an Arizona State University-led research project that seeks to convert algae to jet fuel. ASU scientists have proved that the technology works in the lab. Now, they are growing algae in tubes at ASU's Polytechnic campus for a pilot program to supply biofuel for a yet-to-be-named commercial airline.

If the experiment proves successful, it could reap lucrative investments and a larger commercial venture down the road.

A private company, Heliae Development, has invested $1.5 million in the project, and the foundation pledged $1.5 million to match the private investors. But the foundation does not have the money to make good on its earlier pledge, and the project may soon grind to a halt.

"We're very close to running out of funds," said Rick Shangraw, ASU's vice president for research and economic affairs.

Up and coming?

Try on the verge of down and out.

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