Opinion | Set Up Branches of Elite Colleges to Expand Access?

To the Editor:

Re “Stanford Should Clone Itself,” by David L. Kirp (Op-Ed, April 7):

Mr. Kirp suggests that elite universities should “clone” themselves, opening second branches around the country to allow more students to enroll and access their high-quality education. “It’s not hard,” he writes, “to contemplate a Bill Gates or Laurene Powell Jobs writing an eight-figure check to help underwrite the venture.”

This is one of those shiny ideas whose sparkle far exceeds any potential impact. Allowing another 6,700 students to enroll in Harvard’s undergrad program every year would do little to address the systemic issues that make it so difficult for so many students to get into — not to mention pay for — elite universities in the first place.

Why not use that eight-figure check to help pay off student loans nationwide, or increase access to high-quality preschools, or set up tutoring programs for high-potential but struggling teenagers, or provide scholarships for the many low-income students who, as Mr. Kirp notes, have already demonstrated they can succeed at elite universities?

Dedicated efforts to mitigate income and educational inequalities across the country would do more to help these universities realize their mission than simply duplicating the same restrictive admissions dynamics in another city. And Harvard already has not an eight but an 11-figure check at the ready: its endowment.

Elizabeth Robinson
Amman, Jordan
The writer is a consultant focusing on education in developing countries.

To the Editor:

David Kirp betrays a kind of elite-school myopia of his own when he suggests that Houston and San Diego are unclaimed territories for the Ivy League to colonize. In fact, both cities are home to world-class institutions (Rice University and University of California San Diego) that attract brilliant and motivated students from around the world.

Rather than muscle in on that turf, Princeton or Yale could find places that have relatively limited access to top-tier universities, like Appalachia, the Deep South and the Great Plains. Pikeville, Ky., Jackson, Miss., and Rapid City, S.D., are just a few of the cities that don’t host a national research university and might benefit from getting a satellite Ivy.

Mr. Kirp is correct that access to top universities needs to expand, but so does our imagination as to where such schools can be located.

Jeffrey Winters

To the Editor:

Hogwash! How ridiculous to accept the notion that these institutions actually provide a superior product and should be expanded through branding. Here’s a radical notion. Maybe we don’t need more luxury-branded schools. There are plenty of amazing universities that are struggling to fill their classes. And maybe de-emphasizing name brand and looking at the actual experience of getting an education would solve this “problem” overnight.

Anne Wedner
The writer is a Harvard graduate.

To the Editor:

David Kirp is correct that Ivy schools should work to be more inclusive and accessible, but his vision of doing so by building a physical campus is limited. It is not a coincidence that the examples he cites — Harvard and Arizona State University — for their efforts to include a broader population of students are from online education.

Teaching online allows universities to reach more students, and more diverse students. It is the path to meeting both the high bar of quality and the goal of inclusion. Instead of building a campus in Houston, let’s be bold and build a virtual campus.

Rebecca Stein
The writer is executive director of the Online Learning Initiative at the University of Pennsylvania.

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