The University community ought to be reassured by the Council on Teaching's "Report on Enrollment and Teaching, 1996 to 2001." For all of the heat generated by discussions over college expansion, the report indicates that so far as a quantitative assessment of education is concerned the overall quality of the education the University of Chicago offers to its undergraduates has not suffered. Class sizes have not skyrocketed, nor have a wealth of unprepared students been admitted. Indeed, the report indicates that thus far the College expansion has achieved most of its goals for the University.
Let's not rush to judgment, however. We want to offer a few words of caution before the second half of the College expansion plan begins. After all, the Council on Teaching's report may offer reassuring news about class sizes and student performance, but an initiative should not be endorsed simply because it has not tangibly harmed the quality of education.
The larger questions surrounding college expansion can only be settled by a more detailed, qualitative look at the College. Is College expansion motivated by a simple desire for more tuition payments or is there, behind the numbers, a grander vision for expanding the University of Chicago's traditional college education to a greater number of students? Does the College still have a cohesive identity and an idea of the type of student it wants to attract? Any university can provide statistics on class sizes and grades to bolster claims of its academic merit, but the University of Chicago is not, after all, accustomed to thinking of itself as just any university. The real test of College expansion is its ability to continue the challenge at the heart of Chicago education.