HOW many is too many? When that question is about college campuses, the answer is never easy.
Hank Huckaby, the head of Georgia's higher education system, won few brownie points when he suggested campus consolidation to improve efficiency and save money. When it comes to education, consolidation has long been a dirty word. That's especially true in Oklahoma, where consolidation talk typically focuses on common education.
But even David Boren, president at the University of Oklahoma, has said Oklahoma might have too many college campuses (and school districts, too). Of course, it would be difficult to find anyone inside Oklahoma higher ed to carry that torch.
We can agree with this statement by Georgia's Huckaby: “We must ensure that our system has the appropriate number of campuses around the state. We in the university system should be the first to ask questions of ourselves to make sure we are serving the state in the best way.”
Here in the real world, a balanced approach is probably best. Outsiders are always going to have opinions — and probably pretty strong ones — on how operations should change or improve. But they'll likely be met with resistance because change doesn't come easily. Inside-the-organization questioning might be met with more embrace, but decision-making may take a decidedly conservative bent.
Higher education consolidation, like its common education counterpart, is tricky. Access is a huge issue, especially in a state with a large rural population. Just as common schools don't want students on a bus for an hour just to get to school, forcing students, especially nontraditional ones, to commute too far to a college campus is a huge hurdle that may put a college degree out of reach.