November 8, 2005

Course cooperation

Our administration often tells prospective and current students alike that the College benefits from the reputation and resources of the graduate programs at the University. However, the benefit of taking graduate courses varies widely among the different programs. Some programs are very open to undergraduate participation. Others are not. The Maroon applauds the GSB for its recent attempts to be the former.

Granted, the GSB’s attempt to offer its course this fall was not executed without fault. The lack of advertising about the course clearly contributed to the lack of enrollment, and scheduling the course during a required economics course did not help. However, the example of the GSB is valuable in other ways. First, the GSB saw that students in the College were clamoring to take specific courses at their school, and took action tailored to that specific demand. Second, by making it an undergraduate-only section, the GSB did it in a way so as not to damage the experience of GSB students, while still offering a genuine graduate experience. Finally, the GSB funded the course through an individual donor so that neither the business school nor the college lost any money.

Of course, the GSB example cannot be replicated exactly. Some graduate programs are already welcoming to college students taking their graduate-level courses. Also, it is not always easy to identify specific demands, and it is far harder to create tailored responses to meet those demands. Not to mention the fact that the GSB was and is in an auspicious place to raise additional funds for any venture. Finally, while professional courses might give undergrads advantages that cannot be had within the College, it is not clear whether that is also true for non-professional programs.

What can be replicated is the GSB’s decision to listen and respond to student demands. In short, if the exact steps taken by the GSB might not be able to be transferred, surely the spirit of those attempts can be. If there is evidence of many college students repeatedly demanding entry to a specific graduate course or asking for graduate programs to provide a compatible undergraduate section, their demands should be listened to and, when possible, met. We must be conscious of specific actions that can improve all the University’s programs. Enabling College students to take graduate courses, when applicable, would do just that.