06 August, 2010

More on "Is It Time?"

Naomi Schaefer Riley has a nice analysis piece in this week's Chronicle of Higher Education on "The Lure, the Risks, of Starting a University." There is much to be learned here. Let me outline a few of the items:

• free tuition works--and works very well

• newly founded institutions must find a way to
(1) locate properly
(2) conceive of an institution that can achieve what it wants with the size of student body that it can expect
(3) conceive of an institution attendance at which is made for intrinsic reasons justifiable and desirable to students.

Question: does a radically liberal-arts oriented institution envisioned on the Wittenberg model make sense in light of these criteria that Ms. Schaefer Riley has identified? I think so, but I'd love to hear from others.


Rev. John Hellwege said...


I would agree that we can answer all three questions affirmatively.

1) location - this has been discussed already, and somewhere in the Midwest seems preferable.

2) This is probably the hardest one, to determine the size of the institution both to achieve academic excellence and to know how large of a student body to expect. I think it is the predictions of student body that will be the hardest to determine with accuracy.

3) The question of why someone would want to attend should be well established the unique approach that we are hoping to offer.

The one question I have is: has there been any progress in forming an exploratory committee?

In Christ,

Jon Bruss said...

Dear John, I agree with you on your answers here, esp. on point (2). The Univ. of Wittenberg had a total 12 faculty in the entire faculties (Philosophy, Medicine, Law, Theology) when it began; enrollment was low. So in some ways I have no problem at all with a very small institution. The issue becomes whether students will gravitate toward it, although there are some stellar examples out there of such colleges (Shimer in Chicago, for example). So the idea would have to be to "cover" the necessary areas of study with faculty. Minimally, at first, it seems you're talking about 6 faculty. But this only for a first year. Perhaps it expands to 12 or 15 over the next 4 years. That means you'd want to enroll, in a first freshman class, at least 30 students, it seems to me. But if free tuition is on offer, that may well not be a difficult matter.

As for the exploratory committee: I'm still in the process of sending out feelers and gauging general interest in interest in getting an exploratory committee going. What I'm thinking now is of using the conference at Ft. Wayne on 1 & 2 Oct. this year as a place to draw folks together, since so many of the people already interested in the project will be there. What do you think? Can you get to Ft. Wayne then?

Rev. John Hellwege said...


I have a class that meets on Fridays, but am looking for a substitute, for the conference. So, the short answer is that I really hope to be there, but cannot say for 100% just yet.

In Christ,

Bethany said...

Interesting article. Some of the more interesting recent start-ups I've heard about include Wyoming Catholic College (which looks great - I love the outdoors angle: http://www.wyomingcatholiccollege.com/) and John Paul the Great Catholic University (http://www.jpcatholic.com/).
Another thing to consider is a strategy for accreditation.

Bethany Kilcrease

Anonymous said...

Reading your comments it occurred to me that it could be useful to know a ballpark figure of the size and trend among students you would be looking to recruit.

Just for a point of reference among all test takers nationally:

Math SAT 600+ and the year over year % change

1996 246,398
1997 264,149 +7.2%
1998 277,674 +5.1%
1999 289,198 +4.1%
2001 312,533 +8.1%
2002 335,339 +7.3%
2003 367,924 +9.1%
2004 362,000 -1.6%
2005 391,436 +8.1%
2006 378,632 -3.3%
2007 366,234 -3.3%
2008 379,493 +3.6%
2009 392,989 +3.6%


From just this cursory look, it seems that growth at the top has slowed, but is still increasing. If growth is too weak then it might get harder for a new college to attract students.