If we want change, the calendar doesn’t have to be the only option
t number of people have expressed disapproval over the last few weeks in response to my series of articles on the proposed calendar changes, and have presented me with a challenge: Instead of writing editorialized rants against the big changes that are being put forth, come up with an alternative. Instead of tearing down ideas, think of some of my own. Create positive change.
Concordia needs change. In order to stand out, attract more students, and evolve as an institution, Concordia needs to mix things up. Whether a big change or a series of smaller ones, if this college fails to adapt to the changing market for higher education and enrollment continues to fall, it will be in trouble. What that means is that this college will shrink both in numbers and prestige. Professors will be laid off, and having a Concordia education on your resume will stop speaking quite as highly of you.
Since I am not one to pass up a challenge, and because I still fail to see why, given the challenges we face, the calendar is what falls into the crosshairs, I put together a list. Because the ultimate concern is financial in nature, most ideas concern ways to either save money or increase revenue through recruitment. Some ideas are big, some are small, some are easily within reach, others are a bit out there. But if there is one thing these calendar proposals should have taught us, it is that almost anything goes. So here goes.
THE CORE CURRICULUM
Our core curriculum is not bad, but we can do better. A friend of mine had to return home from studying abroad in China just so he could fill a global education requirement before he graduates (no, I’m not kidding). Provide more flexibility for cases like these so that students don’t end up feeling so frustrated — and spreading that frustration to their friends. Additionally, dropping the religion requirement to one class instead of two could save money on professor salaries over the long-term and allow more time for other classes that students would prefer to take. Things like that could leave students with more flexibility, more happiness, and less frustration.
There are already efforts in place to work on this, but here are a few specific ideas. First, get student input before printing brochures and other materials. We picked a college less than four years ago and we know why, so use our input before spending money printing recruitment materials that may not be up to par. Second, ease up on the liberal arts thing. A liberal arts education isn’t bad, but more and more students these days think of a college education as an investment before a life experience in faith and learning. Stop defending the liberal arts model and stress numbers, return on investment, and employable skills in addition to the softer skills like the ability communicate and reflect, which you can learn anywhere.
Bring the major back. Axing a computer science major in the modern era, where computer scientists are not only helping to dramatically improve the world but are earning excellent salaries, was a bad decision at the time and it still is today. Whether you think of computer science as a liberal arts major or not, it was graduating enough students to pay for the small number of professors it carried. According to PayScale, computer science majors ranked eighth for salary potential and computer engineering ranked sixth. Thinking long-term, bringing back this major could create considerable donations down the road, even if it lost money for a few years when bringing it back to life.
CORRECT THE INTERNET
Search for Concordia-Moorhead on Google and you will see a sidebar that says our acceptance rate is 95 percent. That is both inaccurate and unimpressive. Prospective students with 4.0 GPAs know what their options are, and want to be surrounded by equally motivated and academic peers. A 95 percent acceptance rate does not exactly imply that they will find that at Concordia (even if they will). Look at our Wikipedia page and you will see an outdated endowment figure and that Mark Krejci is still our dean. Call Google and get the sidebar corrected, edit the Wikipedia page and add information to it that can help us, and find other third-party sources of information that we can keep from casting a bad image of this school.
Nowadays, we not only face competition from other colleges in our region, but from the entire world. Online education through sources like Coursera and MIT OpenCourseWare (to name only two of countless others) will make paying for an on-campus degree an ever less appealing investment. To counter that, we should start making our course materials available online for anyone, from notes to assignments to recorded lectures. While making our website prettier this year was good, an initiative like this would be taking things to the next level. And we need to take things to the next level.
Many on this college claim to be in full support of sustainable practices. Yet far too often I find myself waiting on someone to finish printing off 20 pages of PowerPoint slides for class. That is expensive both financially and environmentally, especially considering that taking notes on a computer or even in a notebook is a sound alternative. Setting limits on the number of pages a student can print in a semester, and making them pay a small amount for any pages beyond that would limit the abuse of free printing.
If the goal is to stand out among our regional competitors, this one would probably do the trick. Not only could we allow alcohol on the campus, but we could create a campus bar. Put it in the Normandy. The revenues the college could derive from this project would be enormous and would cover the cost of a liquor license in no time. Sure, many families might be scared off by a wet campus. Others, though, could be attracted to the level of trust and maturity we would afford our students, as well as the increased transparency and controllability we would embody by keeping drinking on campus and letting students be honest about drinking without fear of punishment.
THE NAME OF THE COLLEGE
Okay, now I’m pushing it, but humor me for a second. Think of how many colleges share our name yet bear no affiliation to this campus whatsoever. Search for “Concordia” on CollegeStats.org and you will find a list of 13 schools. It is hard to stand out when the most visible part of your brand is identical to 12 other completely unrelated institutions. There aren’t 13 Google’s or Microsoft’s out there. Companies protect their names because they know that unrelated businesses could tarnish their reputations and steal their unique identities. So what name do we use instead? It has to start with a ‘C’ so that the Cobber rings remain loyal. Heck, call us Credo College, rebuild and reform our honors program, and let’s really start over.
These are just a few ideas for positive change. If we really want to make ourselves stand out, better the student experience, and start attracting more students, we aren’t limited to the one option that has been proposed. Without further explanation of how changing the academic calendar directly addresses our challenges head-on more strategically than the alternatives, it continues to look way off-target. The above list is not comprehensive, but it does prove a point. If we want change — even big change — we have options for making that happen without toying with a calendar.
Jacob Amos is the Opinions Editor and Business Manager of The Concordian. From Stillwater, MN and fresh off a semester abroad in China, he is a senior economics and math major interested in politics, business strategy, and financial markets.