Friday, November 11, 2005

If there's no spring semester, there won't be a fall semester

Tulane University President Scott Cowen has been heard to say, "If Tulane doesn't have a spring semester, there will be no fall semester." That has become the mantra of the university, now struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina, and struggling to get back in shape for the return of students in January. Just how many students return will be a critical fiscal issue for the university, which is investing an enormous amount of capital to repair the university, gambling that students will return.

Many wonder how Tulane, the only Louisiana research university ranked among the nation's top 50, will fare as it tries to attract new and returning students, retain top faculty and carry out building repairs expected to cost more than $100 million.

A key test will come in January, when Tulane finds out how many of the 13,000 students who enrolled for the fall semester return. Cowen feared at one point that as many as a quarter wouldn't show up, a huge financial threat to an institution that charges nearly $30,000 a year in tuition. Recent surveys, however, leave him optimistic that most will return.

Tulane President Scott Cowen is selling the university to parents and students as an institution that will be actively involved in the rebuilding of New Orleans, and that will therefore offer an incredibly unique learning environment and opportunity for students. Still, many students are struggling with the decision.

I've never been a big fan of Scott Cowen. I think he's focused too much on the business of the university, raising money for new buildings at the expense of academics. I've heard faculty say they feel the pressure. He's also a little bit of a dweeb - like a guy who thinks he's cool without ever having "been around the block," happy instead to live his sanitized life of luxury. I think that impression is confirmed in a presentation Cowen delivered a couple of weeks ago when he talked about getting helicoptered out of the city after Hurricane Katrina. My opinion notwithstanding (which I'm sure nobody cares about), Cowen has earned a considerable amount of respect for taking a bold approach toward recovering from Hurricane Katrina, and for implementing his plan immediately. I wish other local leaders were so courageous and competent.

You can view Scott Cowen's presentation, as well as a slide show with photos of the university after Katrina here.

(Hat tip John M. for reminding me I had this link)

4 Comments:

At 11/12/2005 06:34:00 AM, Blogger Pawpaw said...

It won't help much if Tulane remains (arguably) the most expensive university in Louisiana. With two college aged children of my own, I can't afford to send either of them to Tulane. It is simply too damned expensive.

 
At 11/13/2005 08:26:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Agreed. I've heard that despite a significant endowment, much of it is tied up in capital improvement projects. One might question the wisdom of brightening up the appearance of the university with gleaming new buildings instead of focusing on education. On the other hand, sadly, almost every university in the country is doing the same thing to attract students. It is becoming a crisis of higher education that more and more people can no longer afford the professionalization training that this society needs in order to remain competitive globally.

 
At 11/13/2005 12:09:00 PM, Anonymous humidhaney said...

Tulane's education for undergrads is a joke from what I understand. 30k has only been justified by rish kids from the East Coast because it was in New Orleans where they can have a real blast.

A smaller Tulane that offers a real eduaction to undergrads that is cheaper. Hmmm. Shudder to think of what might happen. maybe locals can go there.

 
At 11/13/2005 07:46:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd recommend a good state university for an undergrad education. But it's not about education is it? It's about the name of the university on the piece of paper.

 

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