volume 39, number 2
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Letters to the Editor

—Steve Zelnick, Professor of English Literature, College of Liberal Arts

Steve Zelnick,
Professor of English Literature, College of Liberal Arts

November 11, 2008

To the Editor:

Temple University should be well positioned on enrollments to weather the economic storm. Our tuition rates remain relatively low, and even with shrinking Commonwealth funding, we should be able to count on the advantages of being a state university in offering relatively low tuition costs.

Our problem continues to be quality.

The recent Kiplinger’s Guide to quality and cost effective universities (limited to State Universities with full undergraduate degree programs) lists three institutions in Pennsylvania worthy of its endorsement – University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania State University, and (catch your breath) West Chester State University (http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/colleges/).

Kiplinger’s service explains that “in our scoring system, academic quality carries more weight than costs (almost two-thirds of the total).” Quality measures include:

  • Percentage of the 2008-09 freshman class scoring 600 or higher on the verbal and math components of the SAT (or scoring 24 or higher on the ACT)
  • Admission rates
  • Freshman retention rates
  • Student-faculty ratios
  • Four- and six-year graduation rates, which most schools reported for the student cohort entering in 2002

Kiplinger’s, and as far as I know all other rating services, do not take into account outcome measures – student performance on such standardized tests as LSATs, MCATs, GMATs, and GREs, which would, I suspect, supply even worse news for us.

There are surely many ways to explain this embarrassment. In one department I know of, the problem seems to be the increasing number of undergraduate sections taught by instructors who are not regular tenure-track or tenured faculty, and with that the lack of an effective structure to mentor and monitor adjuncts. I wonder, too, how well we, and our students, are served by a chaotic curriculum that chases after instead of guiding enrollments.

In a recent radio ad, I heard Temple boast itself as an entrepreneurial university. I expect we are and have been doing well. I do wonder whether we are, at the same time, doing much good.

Steve Zelnick,
College of Liberal Arts