21.6.10

THE EXCESS DEMAND IS NOT FOR EASY CREDENTIALS. Enrollment has been falling at financially troubled Southern Illinois University. Some time ago I speculated that lowering standards to keep bodies in the seats wasn't the right approach.
With smaller cohorts of high school graduates on the way, the recession is likely to reinforce the temptation some university administrations will have to loosen admission standards so as to keep the seats full. That strategy is probably a mistake. It does no good to admit people to degree programs that they will not complete. The excess demand is still for the perceived prestige credentials, pokazhuka though they might be.
A professor at Carbondale (via Phi Beta Cons) sees the light.

Yet 60% of our entering freshmen will never graduate (IPEDs six-year graduation data).

How is this compassionate? If lowering standards was the key to increased enrollment, our classrooms would be packed. Those interviewed concede that enrollment has declined for ten years while it has increased at other schools. Yet they remain committed to cheating the ill-prepared of their money and the well-prepared of a rigorous education.

It is an open secret -- and Interim Provost Don Rice alludes to it -- that a SIU degree is losing its value. We are getting a "reputation" for accepting everyone. Every incoming chancellor wraps this sad fact in maintaining our "historic mission."

Seriously.

Don Rice said the university will continue its mission to cater to first-generation students instead of raising admission standards, despite years of declining enrollment.

Rice, interim provost of SIUC, said he sees admission standards and enrollment rates as a balancing act.

“If the university were to raise its standards, some people would feel the university has more rigor and the value of the degree would be greater,” he said. “The opposite side of the coin is that you raise admission standards you lose part of the population we’re dedicated too.”

I've never understood the implicit smear of first-generation collegians, non-traditional students, people working at the roundhouse to earn tuition money inherent in that opposition of standards to access. The effect on faculty morale is obvious enough.
Those of us in the trenches are trying to teach a mix of students: half who need a lot of "remediation." The other half are deprived of a solid education. It is demoralizing.
Southern Illinois, "that most benighted of American university campuses," might be a special case, with a special category at University Diaries. Although it has joined Northern Illinois in the speech code hall of shame, it is Southern rather than Northern that has been losing enrollments. I suspect, however, that the failure of access-assessment-remediation-retention to keep the classes filled generalizes to institutions less corrupted and less captured by politically correct careerists.

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