A couple days ago, MNPublius blogger Jeff Rosenberg highlighted my post about Monday’s Airport Commission meeting. After I commented on his post, it seems I stirred a hornet’s nest. I mentioned the Masters Degree program for Social Responsibility that SCSU offers. Specifically, I said that SCSU was wasting money on a program of questionable importance vs. keeping Aviation open.

The reply I enjoyed most was the one saying, essentially, that it’s all about the money and that the Aviation program probably cost more than the Social Responsibility Masters program.

Momentarily setting aside the importance of the two departments, let’s look at the costs of the two departments. There are 192 students enrolled at SCSU majoring in Aviation. I don’t know the salaries for the 4 fulltime Aviation professors and the parttime instructor but I’m certain it’s less than $300,000.

By comparison, there are 31 graduate students enrolled in the Social Responsibility Masters Degree program. They’re taught by 17 instructors. Those instructors’ salaries have a combined payroll of $1,163,832.

The biggest question I have is this: If SCSU was looking to save money, why didn’t SCSU close the Social Responsibility Masters Degree program instead of the Aviation Department?

Graduates earning their Masters degree in Social Responsibility have a bright future teaching classes at a university or possibly going into community organizing. Graduates earning their degree from the Aviation Department are only qualified to be airline pilots, air traffic controllers, airport managers or military pilots.

They’d also be positioned nicely to return to school, get their teaching degree and train the next generation of pilots, air traffic controllers or airport managers.

Perhaps there is a sensible answer why you’d shut the Aviation Department down instead of the Social Responsibility program. Perhaps but I wouldn’t bet on it.

The time for answers and accountability is now. SCSU doesn’t directly report to the people of St. Cloud. Still, one of the goals included in their Strategic Action Plan is to “institutionalize our commitment to civic and community engagement.” I’m betting that this series of decisions doesn’t meet that goal.

At a time when money is tight, we can’t afford universities offering junk programs. Instead, we need them training people to be productive employees in the private sector or the next generation of journalists.

If they’re doing that, then we’ll know that they’re passing the cost/benefit analysis test. Until then, I’ll remain skeptical.

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2 Responses to “Higher Ed Cost/Benefit Analysis, Part II”

  • Darlene Thompson says:

    Thanks for your insightful, informative article. We need people like you to inform the public and you certainly deserve credit for doing that. I’ve always known you to be fair and honest in your opinions, conversations and reporting. Thanks! I have one question…who DOES SCSU answer to?! If it’s not the people of St. Cloud who pay the taxes to keep SCSU open, I’d like to know whom to contact concerning this matter.

  • Gary Gross says:

    Darlene, Thanks for the compliments. SCSU doesn’t directly answer to anyone in St. Cloud. They answer to the MnSCU board in St. Paul.

    Stay tuned to LFR. I’ll have alot more on this general subject.

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