All for open enrollment

There has been some talk about the open enrollment policy at The University of Akron and whether or not it is actually a good thing. Both sides of the issue have some really good points. However, I must fall on the side of the fence with the most advantageous benefits, even though it typically rules counter to my intuition. I believe that open enrollment provides the best options for students.

If the University were to close its doors and become more restrictive, what would happen to the number of students? It would obviously decrease. Right now, there are close to 30,000 students, many of whom would be hard pressed to find a good level of education anywhere else. The University has the benefit of a central location in a fairly large city. This extends opportunity to many students that may not be able to travel elsewhere for a quality center of learning. Also, if enrollment were to take a hit, tuition would increase. This would damage the potential of thousands of students who struggle to pay the relatively low rates we enjoy today.

The latent effects of employment on campus would be felt as well. A smaller number of students mean that many of our professors would be out of jobs. In an already difficult job market, good teachers would be let go and be hard-pressed to find employment elsewhere. The school’s state budget is going to be cut next year as it is, and the large amount of tuition that UA receives is set as a buffer for many of our contingent faculty members.

The University of Akron may not be perfect, but it is rated quite high as an institution that balances quality education at an affordable price. Let’s face it, not every person that attends at present will graduate, and even more will not graduate on time. Even with these flaws, there is no doubt that our campus is essentially keeping Akron from falling into the same cavernous pit of despair that Cleveland occupies.

Our new buildings, and the fact that the school is buying up more property in the downtown area mean two things. First, tuition is saving the city thousands of tax dollars. Akron no longer has to account for unused structures that simply occupy space. Second, because of the sleek look of our campus, Akron is less of an eyesore. As our new buildings rise up throughout the inner city, downtown becomes more aesthetically pleasing. This is good for everyone. Without increased enrollment, this would all be unnecessary.

Open enrollment allows thousands of students an opportunity for a nationally recognized education at a great price that they may not otherwise have a chance to obtain. It gives second chances to people that may not have performed to their potential while struggling in high school. It allows for the cycle to be broken in our society. Not everyone will flourish, but the ones who do may be able to succeed for the first time in their lives. For some families, these may even be the first people in generations to have a real shot at breaking away from their lower social class.

UA has made great strides in the past several years. The school has never functioned better, and attendance has never been higher. Moving into a society where higher education may provide the only means of landing a great job, the more people who get that second chance to prove themselves, the better off we all will be. We need to do all we can to keep tuition costs down and graduation rates high. In one of the only truly free societies in the world, educating our citizens can only lead to great things. The University of Akron is one realistic pathway to the American dream, and that pathway should never be blocked.