State schools

Letter: Some tough questions for MCLA — and all public schools | Letters to the Editor

To the Editor: Given the declining number of college-aged students in Massachusetts and elsewhere, it’s no surprise that some colleges and universities in the state are showing steep declines in enrollment . (“MCLA Enrollment Drops by Half in 10 Years—Far More Than Any Other State College,” Eagle, Dec. 17.)

Berkshire Community College appears to have continued down the path of providing a relatively affordable launch pad for this demographic – allowing local kids to start college while living at home or working. The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, for some reason, did not attract many students.

Suggestions to rename or refocus may not be enough to save this school. Over time, many state colleges (but not MCLA) evolved into universities. In doing so, prices have risen to UMass levels for many of these colleges, removing the advantage that state colleges had over the state university system for people simply wishing to earn a degree to become a teacher, accountant, or a other vocation requiring a diploma.

The question is not how to reinvigorate MCLA. The question is: do we have too many schools in the system and should we close some to strengthen others? Is MCLA on the save or cut list based on unbiased metrics? This state is not so spread out geographically that any closed schools will make it impossible to access higher education. The purpose of these schools is to provide education, not to be the economic backbone of a community. Although this is an advantage, it should not motivate the decision.

Each state university must be evaluated and see if it offers useful programs and if the unmet physical needs of the plant do not match the enrollment and its ability to support the campus, and judge the number of students commuting as a percentage of the student body. If it’s not supported by many commuters, its loss as an option is a moot point.

Dave Pill, Pittsfield