Red Wolves are not indigenous to central Mexico, but Arkansas State University plans to create new ones when it opens a new college campus in Queretaro, Mexico, in 2017.
Construction on the 800,000-SF facility, more than two hours northwest of Mexico City, is on schedule, according to Jeff Hankins, ASU vice president for strategic communications and economic development.
Phase one of the project should be complete in time for students to attend class by fall 2017, he added. The initial phase, located on a 370-acre swath outside Queretaro, will cost about $75 million, according to information released by ASU.
"This is a new concept …[and] it’s on schedule," Hankins said.
ASU formed a partnership with Mexican businessman Ricardo Gonzalez and other investors to create Arkansas State University Campus Queretaro, or ASUCQ, a nonprofit organization. Ayesa, a global engineering and architectural firm based in Spain, is building the campus.
When it opens, ASUCQ will be the first comprehensive U.S. public university built in Mexico, according to ASU. Officials are hopeful the campus can lure at least 1,000 students the first year and up to 1,200 students by the second year.
The ultimate goal is to have at least 5,000 students on campus once the project is complete, Hankins said.
Other U.S. universities and colleges have partnerships with academic organizations around the world, but this partnership is slightly different. Students who graduate from this campus will be ASU graduates, he said.
"[The students] will graduate as Red Wolves," Hankins said, referring the university’s mascot.
ASU will hire the faculty, design the curriculum, and approve the school’s degree programs. Classes will be taught in English, and the degrees conferred will be recognized in Mexico and the United States.
ASU will also determine what degree programs are offered. The school will initially offer more than 15 majors, including electrical engineering, chemistry, world languages, business administration and strategic communications, Hankins said.
In return, ASU will get to expand its brand into the Mexican college student market. ASU ultimately will receive a percentage of the revenue generated by the campus, Hankins said.
The university has used money from private donations to pay startup costs, and ASUCQ will underwrite any operating deficits for up to three years after course offerings begin.
More Than a College Campus
The ASUCQ campus will be the focal point of an extensive master community plan the nonprofit hopes to build, Hankins said. The plan incorporates a massive 2,100-acre project that includes the campus.
A 148-acre industrial park and 40-acre technology park will be included in the project. A downtown area will be created, and it will include apartments, restaurants and other attractions. A research center and auditorium are also planned.
At least 145 acres will be allocated for green spaces, and another 37 acres are set aside for botanical gardens.
Once the entire project is finished, planners estimate that 70,000 people could be living in the newly built community, Hankins said.
More than 1,300 multi-national companies have offices in Queretaro, which Hankins said is becoming one the fastest growing, business friendly markets in that country. Those international companies need educated and skilled workers, he added.
Officials estimate that about 70 percent of the student population will come directly from Mexico, and another 10 percent will come from other Latin American countries. The rest will come from India, and other countries from around the world.
Mexican colleges and universities are a little bit different than their counterparts in the U.S., Hankins said.
Colleges in Mexico don’t typically have mascots, and students usually don’t live on campus. This will give the ASU’s Red Wolves brand a significant advantage in the country, and students who attend this campus will be able to more immerse themselves in college life, Hankins said.
The United States is universally lauded for how good its college education system functions, Hankins said. Getting a degree from an American-style university could become a premium in Mexico, and ASU has positioned itself to expand globally with this bold move, he said.
"We are excited about this opportunity," he said. "We do not have a financial risk in this. We have a financial upside."