Editorial: In response to the UD president’s comments on in-state students

Assanis Courtesy of the University of Delaware /THE REVIEW
While we at The Review recognize the efforts of the administration to provide opportunities for Delaware students, we found the president’s comments to be disrespectful to in-state students who often have families that save from birth to send them here.

Last Thursday, Feb. 6, President Assanis appeared before the Delaware legislature’s Joint Finance Committee to request more state funding for the university and was subsequently questioned by legislators about the perceived lack of in-state students at the university.

In response, Assanis said, “We need better-qualified students who come out of our K-12. Because we don’t want to put them into a first-class environment and then lead them to having mental health problems.” This drew backlash almost immediately from Delaware legislators and Delaware students.

In-state students account for less than 40% of the University’s undergraduate enrollment, despite programs like Delaware First which makes it possible for many Delaware students to obtain admission to the university without necessarily meeting the previously established thresholds, including SAT and ACT scores. To the university’s credit, it admits a higher percentage of in-state applicants than it does out-of-state.

While we at The Review recognize the efforts of the administration to provide opportunities for Delaware students, we found these comments to be somewhat disrespectful to in-state students who often have families that save from birth to send them here. These students do well in their classes, participate in extracurriculars and work in their spare time.

One cannot overlook the contributions made to the university and the country by in-state students throughout our history, most notably Founding Fathers Thomas McKean and Caesar Rodney, as well as more contemporary examples like Vice President Joe Biden and current Delaware Governor John Carney.

It is imperative to remember that Delaware students are just as capable as any other state in the country. Critics might point to the infamous statistic that ranks Delaware SAT performance at #47 in the country, but a critique like this is ignoring that our state is one of only a handful with 100% SAT participation, unlike the top performing state, Minnesota, which reports only 4% SAT participation. Compared to similar states, Delawareans rank on par, if just a few points below average.

The university has toed the line between public and private status for years, which has allowed them a unique discretion in admissions and financial disclosures that the state of Delaware has long fought to reform. Of the countries over 70 land-grant institutions, Delaware and Rutgers are the only public-private universities.

Land-grant institutions were established by the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 in which one college and one historically black college would receive a tract of land for whatever use the college saw fit. Many universities sold theirs for profit, as Delaware did with their 90,000 acres in Montana. Over the years these have tracked to become the major universities in each state, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Ohio State University, Cornell University and Pennsylvania State University.

When the university puts in a request for more state funding, they are playing the role of a public school, yet claim private status when convenient, such as in the face of Freedom of Information Act requests.

If the university functions as a public school, then its job is to serve the state of Delaware and its native students. By asking for money from the Delaware Joint Finance Committee, the university must accept that the state will justifiably have conditions for its continued support.

If the university functions as a private school, then its job is to make money. In this case, the university needs to admit that their lack of in-state students is not due to any fault of those individuals, but is rather due to the school’s own selfish financial priorities.

The Review’s editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of our staff. This week’s editorial was written by Victoria Calvin and Wyatt Patterson. They may be reached at VCalvin@udel.edu and WyaPat@udel.edu respectively.

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    Brad Thomas 2 months

    Yes, those comments from Assanis seemed harsh, especially as President of a state-funded university, but there is some truth to what he is saying. Public K-12 education in DE is in very poor shape. More and more parents have voted with their feet out of the school districts, and many teachers are also voting with their feet out of the school districts. There was an article in the News-Journal a little over a year ago about declining attendance in the public schools, some operating at as low as 60% of capacity.

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