PQP cuts might restrict students

By Brian Slupski

Students who find it difficult to attend state public universities farther from home may soon find their educational opportunities limited.

Recommendations to cut 190 programs have been made under the IBHE’s Priorities, Quality and Productivity (PQP) initiative, which is designed to streamline higher education.

However, critics claim the PQP process might eliminate access to public higher education for many students who are geographically limited, or placebound.

One example would be the elimination of NIU’s College of Law. If the law school were eliminated, there would not be a public law school in the entire northern part of the state. The closest state-funded law school would be at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

While there are several private institutions in the northern region of the state, the private school tuition is substantially higher than NIU’s rates.

A student who could afford to go to a private institution would probably not be placebound. Most placebound students commute to NIU, or are working their way through school.

NIU President John La Tourette said he feels the issue of student mobility is being lost in debates on the process.

“I think it is a real problem with most of their analysis, many students are simply not mobile,” La Tourette said.

“At NIU we have about 4,000 students commuting, if you eliminate programs, then you are eliminating opportunities for them in this area,” La Tourette said.

James Norris, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said while the IBHE has recognized the placebound status of many students, the IBHE staff has apparently ignored the issue in compiling its report.

“When I went to college, I had to commute because I had a job and was working my way through school. The only way I was able to go was because it was close to my home,” Norris said.

“The northern region of this state, our region, has a larger population than Wisconsin and Minnesota combined. They both have large higher education systems which recognize the placeboundness of their students,” Norris said.

Norris said with the large and diverse population and economy of the northern region of the state, accessible public higher education is needed.

La Tourette said because of placeboundness, universities have to have somewhat of an overlap in terms of program offerings. Private universities will benefit from program cuts at public schools.