Arkansas State University’s Mexico campus opens this week

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 198 views 

New rendering of Queretaro campus of Arkansas State University.

Arkansas State University Campus Queretaro welcomed its first 250 students when it opened on Monday. ASUCQ is a private foundation led by Mexican businessman Ricardo González. He and his partners invested $100 million to build 800,000 square feet of academic and residential buildings and recreational facilities in the first phase of the 200-acre campus and a 2,000-acre community development plan. State funds are not being used to build or operate the Mexico campus, and all of ASU’s startup personnel and travel costs are reimbursed with funds from private gifts, according to the university.

A formal dedication ceremony will be held on the campus Sept. 21 and Gov. Asa Hutchinson is expected to attend.

“It’s hard to describe how excited we are that this day has arrived for our Querétaro campus,” ASU President Chuck Welch said. “An enormous amount of planning, commitment and private investment has culminated with an eager group of freshmen who are ready to experience an American-style college education that they couldn’t have imagined in Mexico. We have persevered through many challenges, and in particular I want to commend our leadership team, faculty and staff in Jonesboro who have gone the extra mile to ensure a successful launch of this world-class project.

“Ricardo’s financial commitment is an extraordinary, transformative gift and investment that will positively change generations in Mexico while strengthening relationships between his home country and the United States. Arkansas State is honored to be part of this development and extend its brand as all of our students prepare to compete in a global economy.”

Academic requirements are the same as the ASU main campus. During the first year, general education and introductory courses will be taught to the inaugural students. All coursework at ASUCQ is taught in English and the students are considered members of the general student body of ASU. The initial degree programs cover three major subject areas, business and communications, engineering and technology, and science. Eight undergraduate degrees and two graduate degrees are available for those students and diplomas will be valid in both the United States and Mexico.

ASU will receive $1,600 per student, per year once the enrollment numbers reach 5,000, according to the school. ASU will receive an $8 million windfall each year once the school is fully operational. The investment consortium has agreed to pay millions each year for ASU’s branding rights, curriculum, and other services. It could total $140 million during the next 20 years, Welch said. The investor’s aim is to build a new workforce in that part of Mexico.

Queretaro, located in north-central Mexico about 200 miles north of Mexico City, is a technology and industrial hub in the country. At least 1,300 international companies have offices in the city. Gonzalez, who has worked in the banking and food product sectors, is hoping to create an educated workforce to fill the needs of the companies in the region. There is also an impetus by the group to raise education levels and the quality of life in the country.

The college sits on a 370-acre swath and is part of a much larger project envisioned by the investment group. The vision is to build an entire community with homes, retail shopping markets, parks, and other amenities.

Construction on six buildings has been substantially completed, with four more expected to be complete by the end of the year. Four additional residence hall buildings will be added next year and a second academic building will be added in year three to support a projected 5,000 students in the first phase.

The ASU Board of Trustees authorized negotiations for the campus in December 2012, and in February 2014 more than 2,000 leaders in government, education and business gathered at the Centro de Convenciones in Querétaro to celebrate plans for the campus and comprehensive land development plan near Querétaro.

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