Saturday, February 26, 2011

Higher education costs: the germ of a real argument

The Herald-Leader, reporting on University of Kentucky challenges, includes this:
The biology department, for example, teaches the largest number of undergraduate majors at the university, 40 percent of the students in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Last fall, 843 freshmen declared biology as a major, with 31 faculty members to teach them. Probably 500 will continue with the major.
"The challenge is that we don't have enough faculty and we don't have enough teaching space," said Vincent Cassone, the biology chairman. He came to UK from Texas A&M University with his laboratory.
From news like that, I can imagine an argument.

Say a university isn't just adding students: it's adding students in sciences that require lab work and the costs of adding lab space.  That pattern can supply a reason for costs to rise noticeably faster than the overall cost of living.

Plus, the added costs can be tied to increasing STEM capacity, and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics do indeed need stronger investment here in Kentucky.

If growth in STEM majors is indeed a major cost driver at the University of Kentucky, it's a good argument for funding growth.

Only, why I am saying "if"?  Arguments like the ones above can and should flow from the universities to the public discussion, steadily.  It shouldn't depend citizens piecing them together from small clues in occasional long articles.

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!