Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Duplication in education

I'm a bit baffled by this article in today's Denver Post.
When the University of Colorado Denver announced a brand new bioengineering department this month, it took only a couple of days for Colorado State University to point out that it already had such a program.
The two, about 65 miles apart, are a bit different — CU's is an actual department; CSU offers a master's and Ph.D. — but each costs between $230,000 and $350,000 a year to operate, with professors, support staff and labs.
Never mind that this distinction between an "actual department" and a department that "offers a master's and Ph.D." is completely unclear.  And never mind that these departments undoubtedly bring in revenue, as well, via tuition.  Since when is two state universities having similar departments considered a market inefficiency?  But that's exactly the line of thought the article follows:
One school sees success in, for example, another school's criminal-justice program and decides to create the same major to lure in students.
"I think it's foolish to aggressively compete," said David Longanecker, president of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education and a former assistant education secretary. "An efficient system isn't one that has a lot of duplications. . . . It doesn't make sense. That's not what public higher education is about. We should have clearly differentiated systems and missions."
Or, as Colorado Department of Higher Education director Rico Munn put it: "We are entering an economic environment, and we're also going to have to set priorities."
So let me get this straight.  If CU Boulder's political science program is considered to be the best in the state, then the continued existence of CSU's political science program is inefficient and unnecessary.  Students who want to student political science should go to Boulder.  Of course, if they want to study in a program in which CSU excels -- say, agricultural sciences -- they should go to Ft. Collins, and the corresponding program at Boulder should be closed.

What happens if a student wants to study both agriculture and politics?  Sorry -- you have to make a choice when you're 18.

Does this make sense?

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