Mayor Kenny Evans said Payson has acquired roughly $45 million in pledges from private donors for a four-year college in Payson.
Evans made the announcement before First District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick delivered her speech at The Rim Club April 16 to Rim Country chamber members and small-business owners.
“We are trying to keep it as low-key as possible,” Evans said of the project.
Audience members immediately jumped on the mention of a four-year college and asked Evans for more details on the project.
Evans explained that last summer, Arizona State University President Michael Crow made a presentation proposing a new, smaller concept in universities around the state.
The idea is a departure from traditional city-sized campuses where administrative costs are rising at the same time the state is cutting budgets for schools. Smaller campuses, which cost less to build and maintain, could reduce student and administrative costs.
Evans said with rising costs, by 2014 students could expect to pay as much as $24,000 a year in tuition at ASU.
“That is no longer public education in my opinion,” Evans said.
According to the Arizona Constitution, universities should be as nearly free as possible.
If a Payson campus were built, tuition could be around $6,000 to $8,000 a year while it would still cost around $16,000 at the Phoenix campus, Evans said.
Currently, new students at ASU pay around $6,200 for the year, which is more than a 50-percent increase since 2004.
In December, Crow further detailed to the Arizona Board of Regents that ASU should build three, four-year universities around the state with two in Maricopa County and one in an outside county.
An audience member asked Evans whether it is likely Payson would be the chosen town for the outside county.
Evans said Payson was years ahead in terms of planning compared to other towns on the list. The new campus, if it is ever built, would work with Payson’s existing community college and offer more courses on natural resources and sustainability and rural health care.
Another audience member asked where the funds would come from to build a university.
“We have a team working on the economics,” Evans said. “But we have around $45 million that we have been able to get in pledges.”
Evans said Crow hopes to start building the campuses by fall 2010.
“It is beyond my reasoning that we could do it by then,” he said.