When it comes to the University’s student population, the cliché that bigger is better isn’t necessarily true. University President Mary Sue Coleman agrees. As campus application and enrollment numbers increase, Coleman thinks that the University should decrease the number of students it accepts. Though the state economy will increasingly require workers with advanced degrees, the University shouldn’t make sacrifices to academic quality. Increases in the size of the student body have adverse effects that the University should take into consideration. Though growth will probably be necessary in the long term, the University must maintain the quality of the education it provides.

According to a Jul. 5 report in the University Record, the University has seen record-high application numbers every year since the 2007-2008 academic year. Another increase in applications is expected during this application cycle because the University recently switched to the Common Application. The University expects that the 2010 freshman class will number 6,300 — 300 more students than last year. As reported by the Daily last week, Coleman said that the increase in students wasn’t planned and that the University has been attempting to decrease enrollment numbers in recent years, though it hasn’t always been successful. One of Coleman’s major concerns is maintaining the quality of the education that students receive.

Higher education is becoming requisite in today’s economic climate. The state must create an economy based in science and advanced technology like medical research and solar technology. As Michigan’s economy shifts, more people are going to need a bachelor’s degree — or higher — to find employment. And the University will have to step in to fill the need.

But growing too quickly would only water down the quality of the education that University students receive — and that isn’t worth it. Academic resources, including a reasonable student-to-professor ratio, adequate space in residence halls and appropriate technological resources are important factors in determining the quality of a university education. Presently, these resources are being stretched thin over too large a number of students. This year, the University had to rush to convert space in Oxford Residence Hall to accommodate students and has offered a Northwood housing option to freshman.

The goal isn’t simply to churn out more graduates — it’s to produce the very best professionals possible. Students can’t excel in their studies if they aren’t able to access classes that they are interested in or need to fulfill requirements, their professors and University resources. University officials need to focus on maintaining this quality as they consider enrollment numbers. Inevitably, the University will have to educate more people. But if it grows too fast, it won’t be able to compensate the student increase with elite professors, adequate living facilities and access to appropriate, high quality classes. Growth should be gradual and deliberate.

The University shouldn’t sacrifice the caliber of the experience it provides to give more students a higher education. Gradual growth will probably be necessary in Michigan’s shifting economy, but the University must provide adequate resources to accompany any increase — and that takes time.

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