Sunday, August 15, 2010

Focus on the core business

Whether two prestigious, private institutions in New York City offer a realistic example for the rest of the country is not the point. What is, rather, is that each university has planned aggressive expansion plans at a time when the economy is not strong, university endowments are shrinking and the financial pressure on families and students to get someone through college is growing.

One member of the Columbia University's faculty chastises his university and nearby NYU for what he thinks are mistaken priorities.

Is he correct?

Let's acknowledge his identification of just one program -- philosophy -- is important. First, he provides no numbers to indicate the strength of each program (how many students, how many faculty, scholarly work, grants received, etc).

He also fails to address whether his program -- religion -- also ought to be considered for merging with NYU. Of course, I have no numbers to validate my claim, but I doubt that the numbers are strong.

Third, he doesn't offer any indication what the elimination or merging of any one program would mean for Columbia's bottom line. Moreover, he doesn't offer any indication of what the overseas programs he identifies cost.

Don't misunderstand me, I agree with the premise of the aforementioned editorial. But I think the author could have made a much more persuasive case. As it is written, he's picking on a convenient straw man.

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