ASU receives nearly $12 million to expand access, empower learners

ASU receives nearly $12 million to expand access, empower learners

Arizona State University has announced grants totaling $12 million in support of a new initiative focused on accelerating innovations in higher education.

Launched with a grant of up to $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and additional support from donors to Stand Together, a network of nonprofits funded by Koch and others — including the Morgridge Family Foundation, O'Neil Family Foundation, Michael and Beth Kasser, Ambassador Frank and Kathy Baxter, Mike and Cindy Watts, and Gary and Claudia Phillip — the Agent Learner Initiative will work to broaden access to advanced educational methods and technological innovations that empower students and respond to their specific needs and goals.

The funding will launch ASU's University Design Institute (UDI), which will coordinate the effort and support other universities in implementing their own culture-change initiatives. Activities to be funded include partnerships with university leaders who are driving broad-based innovations; the development of a stackable credential system that makes it easier for students to adjust their course selections to reflect their aptitudes and interests and demonstrate their mastery of knowledge and skills relevant to their career paths; the development of key technological components of the world's first Trusted Learner Network, a verifiable learner-owned record system that can replace transcripts with a less expensive competency-based credential; and the scaling of ASU's high school programs and digital high school curriculum.

"The work advanced through this partnership will drive a culture change and the commitment to redesign and restructure higher education that we embrace at ASU and that is critical to the success of students across the country," said ASU president Michael M. Crow. "The public health pandemic that has swept the globe and the stress it has placed on our education system [have] exposed weaknesses that have existed for years. Universities are being forced to adapt right now and so we're saying, 'Let's take advantage of this opportunity and let's build things in a way that serves the learner in a new world that doesn't look anything like the one that existed when most of America's institutions of higher learning were designed.'"