Some years ago, Richard Vedder referred to the flagship state universities as gated university communities.  But in a world where the fifty claimants to belong in the top twenty national universities limit enrollment and quote low tuitions so as to appear selective, how else might faculty and admissions directors at the flagships respond to excess demand for intellectually challenging education?
The original motivation behind most state universities was a desire to provide low cost education for the masses. Yet the flagship universities are very often almost contemptuous of this mission. While Marie Antoinette may have said to the French peasants who could not afford bread, "let them eat cake," today's state university president confronted with the fact that few poor go to his or her school say "let them go to a community college."
That, dear reader, is the heart of the tussle over whether publicly funded universities constitute a regressive transfer, either by catering to students born to the upper middle class, or students who would join the upper middle class after graduation.  But where there is excess demand for what looks like prestige degrees, perhaps the land-grants, and the mid-majors, and the Compass Point States ought to lift their game.  That appears to be what Wisconsin at Milwaukee did.
Lesser known research institutions with this distinction include Texas Tech, University of Mississippi and West Virginia, which like UWM, moved from R-2 "high research activity" to R-1 "highest research activity" in the Carnegie classifications.

"Through grit and determination — and despite dwindling state resources — you made UWM the prominent research and access institution that it is today," Chancellor Mark Mone said in an email he sent campuswide Monday. "This is a proud moment in our history and I congratulate you."

What the bump actually means will be determined largely by what the university makes of it, according to the man who directs the program at Indiana University Bloomington that produces the Carnegie classifications.

Literally, moving up from R-2 to R-1 means: "You've crossed over from one side of the line to the other," said Victor M.H. Borden, the program director and an educational leadership and policy studies professor at Indiana University.

It's accurate for a university that moves into the R-1 classification to say it's producing a level of research like other institutions in the group, based on the numbers, Borden said Monday.
The R-1 classification is not a ranking, and yet it matters. In research, there's a them-that-has-gets effect, as some government grants are earmarked only for R-1 universities. And I claim it as a win for striving students.
Milwaukee, despite having neither high-visibility football nor royalties from rat poison, now has more Wisconsin residents enrolled than Madison, and Milwaukee's part of the social contract is to make sure that its brainiacs and strivers get the intellectual challenge they might have hoped to get at Madison, had Madison provided a slot for them.  The incentive to the former teachers' colleges ought to be to lift their academic profiles as well.
And Milwaukee's faculty and administration have had their eyes on this prize for at least ten years.

But perhaps it doesn't matter.  The same article that reports on Milwaukee and Mississippi and West Virginia (Northern Illinois earned this status some years ago) earning the R-1 reports that Dartmouth has been relegated to R-2.  Perhaps that doesn't matter, as Dartmouth is Ivy, and it continues to set the pace for political correctness.  Gosh, next they'll come for my small cache of buffalo nickels.

No comments: