ASU awaits Mexican campus construction information

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JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) — Though no new information has materialized in recent months, Arkansas State University officials remain optimistic about opening a campus in Queretaro, Mexico, in 2016.

Earlier this month, Jeff Hankins, vice president of strategic communications, said ASU expects to get new information regarding "dirt work" on the campus in the first quarter of 2015.

"I know they are anxious," Hankins said. "They are waiting on final permits . and engineers and architects are doing things behind the scenes."

Asked whether ASUCQ — the private investment partners in Mexico — had provided documentation regarding the project's funding or pledges for funding, Hankins said, "They have no requirement to share any of that information with us. They're confident in their progress."

Hankins later stated in an email that "routine pre-construction activity and conversations continue," but provided no further detail about licenses, permits or insurance plans.

Edmundo Ortiz, an ASUCQ representative, visited Jonesboro in early November, and though Hankins told The Sun he expected Ortiz to bring everyone up to speed at that time, no updates were provided.

When The Sun tried to schedule a meeting with Ortiz during his visit, the university said he was unavailable for interviews.

A review of the collaboration agreement between ASU and its partners in Mexico shows the two entities are to work together to create a marketing plan to attract student interest, at ASUCQ's expense.

Hankins said there is not yet such a plan.

"All marketing plans and materials used to execute such marketing plans shall be previously approved by ASU (Jonesboro) in writing," the agreement states. "ASUCQ shall deliver, if requested by ASU (Jonesboro), reports of the effect of such marketing plans, not limited to, students enrolled, students interested in enrollment and School Program such students are interested."

Hankins said the university has neither requested nor received any marketing reports.

"It's premature to expect any," he added.

The collaboration agreement also outlines a payment schedule and projected enrollment numbers outlining how much ASUCQ is to pay the university starting at year one and ending at year 10.

Beginning in year two, the agreement predicts an enrollment of 1,200 students, and a total amount due to A-State of $114,000.

By year six, the agreement predicts an enrollment of 3,100 students, and $4.4 million due to A-State.

By year 10, officials project an enrollment of 5,100 students, and $8.3 million as A-State's share of tuition funds.

Total student tuition and fee amounts are not outlined in the agreement, however, and Hankins said those amounts haven't been set.

"The tuition and fees have not been finalized but will be competitive within the context of the higher education market in Mexico," Hankins stated in an email. "However, ASUCQ will collect tuition and fees and pay all maintenance and operations costs. As outlined in the agreement, A-State will receive funds from ASUCQ based on enrollment. This plan was devised to minimize risk for A-State while still allowing for academic oversight and substantial revenue possibilities."

Though Hankins said there have not yet been any marketing plans to assess whether there is potential student interest and for what types of programs, he said ASU has been collaborating with its Mexican partners for curriculum development.

"We have been collaborating on curriculum for the past year and have an initial plan, but it has not been finalized," Hankins said. "The core curriculum along with degrees in business and engineering will almost certainly be offered from the outset."

After encountering challenges providing sufficient water and power to the proposed campus site, the university announced in August it was delaying the opening of ASU-Queretaro until fall 2016.

Arkansas State University Chancellor Tim Hudson said a project of this size is always challenging because it is undeveloped land that requires water and power brought to the site.

The proposed campus site is located in the municipality of Colon in the State of Queretaro, about 150 miles northwest of Mexico City.

Colon is about 20 miles northeast of the Queretaro International Airport and has about 46,000 residents.

In September, Hankins noted in an email the location could be adjusted based on infrastructure needs.

"The investment group continues to assemble land for the overall, approximately 2,000-acre commercial development," said Hankins. "The location of the 200-acre campus within the development could be adjusted based on infrastructure decisions, land development studies, and additional property acquisitions that are still pending."

The state of Queretaro is home to several universities including the Autonomous University of Queretaro — a public university with six campuses around the state offering specialties in law, medicine, engineering and nursing, among others.


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun,

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