Op-Ed: Increased Enrollment Show Green, UI Made the Right Call

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University of Idaho President Scott Green saved the university by making the decision to keep the university up and running during Covid. 

That was a data-driven decision as opposed to the political, fear-driven decision made by all the other universities. 

My Op-Ed in today’s Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Washington State University’s fall enrollment dropped by 7.7% this semester. This is the third consecutive year that total enrollment has fallen at WSU. However, enrollment at the University of Idaho is up again this fall. The UI’s freshman class is the largest in the institution’s history at 2,000 students which is up almost 20% from last fall. Moscow campus enrollment is up over 200 students from last year at about 10,000 this semester. There are 11,507 students at the UI this semester which is up about 2% from a year ago.

There was further bad news for WSU and further good news for UI. Last year, they were tied as the country’s 179th best national university. This year, UI is ranked 176th best national university and the country’s 26th top value school while WSU dropped 36 spots on the national university list coming in at 212th.

Why the difference?

Long time readers know that I have been highly critical of UI in the past. In my February 2020 column, I discussed UI’s steady declining enrollment that started in 2005. Idaho needed to do something drastic to stop the hemorrhaging, and the State Board of Education did just that. They made the non-conventional move to hire a businessman, Scott Green, to be UI president instead of yet another career academician.

In my July 2020 column, I argued that UI needed to return to live classes that Fall. Remote learning would be another nail in its coffin. They are not good at it, and they charged the same as as for live classes.

Rather, I argued that they should follow the science. In July 2020, the CDC reported that coronavirus had killed a total of 157 individuals in the 15-24 age group. I argued that we shouldn’t be shutting down K-12 schools or colleges for a virus that is statistically unlikely to kill anyone in that age cohort.

5dd6bf9ab4f0a imagePresident Green did something during the Covid panic that no academic admin weenie would do: he introduced a hybrid-flex instruction option where students could attend live classes if they so desired. And although he mandated masks on campus (which we already knew were worthless at stopping the virus), he did not require the students to be vaccinated. The UI was one of the few campuses open in the US, and students flocked to it.

Back in July 2020 I wrote “Moscow and UI should acknowledge that college students are statistically unlikely to die from the coronavirus and should take this opportunity to set themselves apart as a rational institution, unwilling to destroy their institution or the local economy by living in fear and expecting taxpayers to prop them up.”

Predictably, Moscow’s professional philosopher, Nick Gier, criticized my arguments for live classes. “For libertarians such as Courtney, the focus is always on the individual, not the collective.” For collectivists like Gier, one size must fit all. No liberty for an individual to choose whether a live class would be best for him. All students must learn remotely. All restaurants must be closed. All people must be jabbed.

President Green’s willingness to follow the actual science and common sense is what turned UI enrollment around. And Idahoans should be grateful for his boldness to stand up and do what few would do.

WSU administrators were quick to blame their declining enrollment on the pandemic. It was not the pandemic that caused their declining enrollment but the political decisions that were made in reaction to it.

I recognize that WSU had insane mandates imposed upon them by the govenor of Washington. However, WSU recently ended shot mandates for administrators, faculty, staff, contractors, and volunteers. Yet WSU is maintaining its Covid-19 vaccination requirement for students enrolled at physical campuses during this academic year. That in spite of the fact that a total of 6,649 out of 27,366,000 college-aged US students (0.02%) have died of Covid since the beginning.

No, common sense isn’t so common seven miles to the west of Moscow. Perhaps part of WSU’s declining enrollment is that potential students know they are not going to die from Covid, don’t want the experimental jab, and are shopping for colleges that doesn’t require it?