ASU is one of the largest public universities by enrollment in the U.S. It had approximately 72,000 students enrolled in fall 2017, including 59,198 undergraduate and 12,630 graduate students. ASU's charter, approved by the board of regents in 2014, is based on the "New American University" model created by ASU President Crow. It defines ASU as "a comprehensive public research university, measured not by whom it excludes, but rather by whom it includes and how they succeed; advancing research and discovery of public value; and assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves."
ASU is classified as a research university with "R1: Doctoral Universities – Highest Research Activity" designation by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Since 2005, ASU has been ranked among the top research universities in the U.S., public and private, based on research output, innovation, development, research expenditures, number of awarded patents and awarded research grant proposals. The Center for Measuring University Performance ranked ASU 24th among top U.S. public research universities in its 2015 report. ASU was classified as a Research I institute in 1994, making it one of the nation's newest major research universities (public or private).
Students currently compete in 24 varsity sports; Sun Devil Athletics fields teams in 10 men's and 14 women's sports. Women's lacrosse has been added and will begin play in spring 2018, while men's tennis will return to ASU in 2017–18. The Arizona State Sun Devils are members of the Pac-12 Conference and have won 24 NCAA championships. Along with multiple athletic clubs and recreational facilities, ASU is home to more than 1,100 registered student organizations, reflecting the student body's diversity. To keep pace with the student population's growth, the university continuously renovates and expands infrastructure. The demand for new academic halls, athletic facilities, student recreation centers, and residential halls is being addressed with donor contributions and public-private investments.
Arizona State University was established as the Territorial Normal School at Tempe on March 12, 1885, when the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature passed an act to create a normal school to train teachers for the Arizona Territory. The campus consisted of a single, four-room schoolhouse on a 20-acre plot largely donated by Tempe residents George and Martha Wilson. Classes began with 33 students on February 8, 1886. The curriculum evolved over the years and the name was changed several times; the institution was also known as Tempe Normal School of Arizona (1889–1903), Tempe Normal School (1903–1925), Tempe State Teachers College (1925–1929), Arizona State Teachers College (1929–1945), Arizona State College (1945–1958) and, by a state vote, Arizona State University in 1958. The school accepted high school students and graduates, and awarded high school diplomas and teaching certificates to those who completed the requirements.
In 1923 the school stopped offering high school courses and added a high school diploma to the admissions requirements. In 1925 the school became the Tempe State Teachers College and offered four-year Bachelor of Education degrees as well as two-year teaching certificates. In 1929, the legislature authorized Bachelor of Arts in Education degrees as well, and the school was renamed the Arizona State Teachers College. Under the 30-year tenure of president Arthur John Matthews (1900–1930), the school was given all-college student status. The first dormitories built in the state were constructed under his supervision, the first being in 1902. Of the 18 buildings constructed while Matthews was president, six are still in use. Matthews envisioned an "evergreen campus," with many shrubs brought to the campus, and implemented the planting of Palm Walk, now a landmark of the Tempe campus. His legacy is being continued to this day with the main campus having been declared a nationally recognized arboretum.