Tuesday, December 26, 2006

University Excellence at what price?

This NYT article about the University of Florida is interesting.
The university's financial situation is unique: it has the lowest tuition of the flagships, $3,206 a year. In addition, the state pays 75 percent to 100 percent of tuition and fees for students with high grades and test scores, including more than 90 percent of freshmen.
I dare say this is a simple statement of the richer getting richer?
To upgrade the university, Dr. Machen is seeking a $1,000 tuition surcharge that would be used mostly to hire more professors and lower the student-faculty ratio, not coincidentally one of the factors in the much-watched college rankings published annually by U.S. News & World Report. This year, that list ranked Florida 13th among public universities in the United States.
So this fall, the university started a program covering the full cost of college, living expenses included, for students from families with incomes under $40,000, if neither parent went to college. The program also attracted more minority students, helping to raise the proportion of blacks among this year's freshmen to more than 13 percent, from about 10 percent in the two previous years.
I look at this and realize that the State of Illinois is failing to compete for the best college students and is losing them to other states. You know the drill, the best people leave and that kills future growth for the whole state.
The university is also cutting back merit aid. For years, Gainesville paid dearly to attract National Merit scholars, the students who scored highest on the Preliminary SAT exams. Scholars from out of state pay no tuition at the University of Florida and receive an additional $38,000 over four years.
As a result, the school has drawn hundreds of merit scholars, sometimes nearly as many as Harvard. But next fall, the amount of those awards will be cut to $17,000 for out-of-staters.
Seems like a simple building block for SIU. Many of the elite students I have seen in the last 5 years have been on a full ride, including dorm housing.

We know that Walter Wendler and/or the people who wrote Southern at 150 understood the economic realities of these issues, but he was choosing to spend all available money on football and administrative buildings instead of worrying about fixing them. Maybe attracting really elite students and faculty might be a better investment? Would having great students and professors bring enough prestige to SIUC to get the state to fund the football dream too?

Your comments are always welcome.


Fraydog said...


Personally, I wish you'd drop a comment on this thread. Someone posts that maybe we should consider dropping football and the fur flies.

I like the Bud Wilkinson quote about this sort of thing: "We need a University our football team can be proud of." Couldn't be more true of SIU.

Anonymous said...

Well, how are you going to get excellent students and faculty if the place is falling down around your ears. New buildings and state of the art facilities will only help. But you can only do one thing at a time. Give it some time.

By the way, what would happen if you promise to put a certain amount of athletic revenue in faculty salary lines? My guess is that faculty will fall down all over themselves to keep football, etc. Even promote the program. Might be a win-win situation.