Years ago, I asked an intern from Long Island why she and so many of her neighbors chose to attend the University of Delaware. In so many words, their high school guidance counselors saw UD as providing an excellent education at a bargain price in a place that was far enough away to instill a feeling of independence, but not too far to be inconvenient.
That made sense to me then, and given the vast amount of time the explanation has perked in my brain, it makes even more sense now.
UD sits a short hop from I-95 between the most densely populated areas of the country. For president Pat Harker, that must seem like a dream location. As you’ll read in Jim Waltzer’s story “Engineering UD’s Future” (page 60), Harker has embarked on the so-called Path to Prominence; based on his belief that the university’s performance justifies an international reputation for excellence, he wants to raise its profile.
Speaking as a proud Blue Hen, that seems a worthy endeavor. In my time at school, I witnessed beloved president Art Trabant retire twice, Russel Jones make a false start and David Roselle undertake an unprecedented effort to modernize. But until Harker, I hadn’t seen such a well-formed idea emerge so quickly.
Indeed, all our institutions of higher learning, public and private, have made great strides over the past two decades. Each has found a niche it serves well and has grown as a result, with a couple former colleges achieving university accreditation. We have every reason to be proud.
So, given the size of the state, the proximity of its schools, the diversity of academic offerings and other factors, I’d suggest that a state university system (UD, DelState and DelTech) may not be a bad idea. Such a system could accommodate students of all ages, socioeconomic strata and academic ability.
Yes, it would require a massive restructuring, but it seems a state system could serve all Delawareans better while further positioning the state as a leader in education. Is it worth the effort? I’m not qualified to say, but it does seem worth consideration.
It seems like yesterday…