NEWS BLOG (WSAU) When I was in college, there was a debate about what to do with the Syracuse University College of Nursing. It had about 40 students at a university with a student body of 15,000. The nursing school needed a Dean, administrators, faculty, and it was serving very few students.
It was no mystery why nursing program was poorly attended. As a private university, Syracuse tuition was expensive. And many schools – including state college with much lower tuition – had nursing programs. If you were going to be an RN or an LPN, you could go to dozens of other schools that charged half as much. Many nurses get specific training as a technician, operating lab equipment or x-ray machines, and then invested their money into becoming a fully-trained nurse after being in the work force for a few years. The number of students who entered a nursing program directly from high school and graduated with a degree four years later was small, and Syracuse was among the most expensive options for that handful of students.
The debate was whether to invest and grow the College of Nursing or close it down. In hindsight, closing it was the right decision. But traditionalists won out. The nursing program dated back to the very earliest years of the University. It was one of the first degree programs that admitted women. The plan was to increase enrollment, and to create new partnerships with the local VA Hospital and the state university system to control costs. An S.U. nursing degree would still be much more expensive that what was available at other schools, and enrollment would still be small compared to other programs on campus. But the program would live on.
I bring this up because of a curious quote from University of Wisconsin regent Aaron Wingad who said after a tuition increase that there were only two options – “charge more, or do less”. The problem is in past years only one option has been tried… charge more. The result is Regents who claim they are doing yeoman’s work by limiting tuition hikes to 5.5%, which is nearly twice the rate of inflation. Are there degree programs that it makes sense to eliminate? Can some degree programs be consolidated at a few campuses? Can faculty cover more of their health care costs? Can some construction be delayed?
Sometimes when money doesn’t allow, ‘do less’ is the right choice.
Operations Manager, Midwest Communications-Wausau