In a decision bound to affect the plans of many future students, the University Board of Regents voted last month to create a bachelor’s degree in public policy. Beyond simply broadening the scope of the University’s undergraduate curriculum, the degree’s creation will benefit students, faculty and administrators alike. With the University aiming both to better prepare undergraduates for the outside world and to remain a premiere, competitive institution, the new undergraduate public policy program is a worthwhile addition to the University’s academic offerings.
The new plan, which is set to begin in the fall of 2007, will expand the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy to include a two-year program for qualified undergraduates. For students planning on careers in law, government or any other aspect of politics, the advantages of earning a degree in public policy are clear. The University’s current offerings for undergraduates within this field are scant to say the least. Although graduate public policy courses are available, many undergraduate students are unaware of or unable to take these offerings. The new program will still be unable to accommodate all interested students by inducting only 50 sophomores each year into the program. The school should find ways to offer additional sections of some undergraduate courses so that other students can explore the field without crowding the program.
Another important – if somewhat less obvious – goal of this program is to increase to University’s competitiveness with peer schools. The field’s importance as a vital academic discipline is increasingly evident, and several top-ranked universities have recently adopted public policy programs. The creation of this program at the University both broadens its academic scope and presents an attractive incentive for potential applicants.
The bachelor’s degree in public policy constitutes a much-needed addition to the University’s undergraduate offerings. For all parties involved, the creation of this program – and the accomplishment of its intended goals – will be a positive change to academic life at the University.