Here’s a revolutionary idea: A leading private university like Princeton or Yale (or perhaps a renowned university like Amherst or Swarthmore) should open a new campus.
The institution would not have to lower its standards because the best and the brightest would line up for admission. Professors with sparkling resumes would jump at the chance to teach there – indeed, for the adventurous Yale-caliber scholar, the opportunity to be present at the creation could be a powerful draw. Cities would run hand rests to land such a school.
Harvard-San Diego, Yale-Houston – this idea is not just out of place in academia. It is not even in the realm of the imagination of these universities. But why should this astonish the mind? If Yale can open a campus in Singapore, why can’t it open one in Houston?
Institutions like these, which keep their reputation for mother-bear ferocity, predictably fear that if they took such a bold step, their coin prestige would suffer and their US News & World Report rankings would slip by. a notch or two. Still, if Harvard-San Diego was truly a Mothership clone, as it could be, it’s hard to see how the university would be any worse. On the contrary – because he would acquire what economists call the first-mover advantage, he would be lionized. It’s not hard to envision a Bill Gates or Laurene Powell Jobs writing an eight-figure check to help underwrite the business.
Companies like Tiffany, which traffic in luxury goods, are reluctant to expand, and De Beers is limiting the number of diamonds on the market. Exclusivity is a critical part of what they sell, and if they get bigger, they risk diluting their brand.
Unlike Tiffany or De Beers, the top-ranked universities do not come across as avatars of exclusivity. If you take their word for it, their vocation is to educate the best and the brightest – to promote what the Stanford University mission statement calls “the public welfare.” Educating more students who would benefit from this opportunity, and not tinkering with the behavior of the admissions office, is one way to achieve this mission.
David Kirp (@DavidKirp) is a graduate professor at the University of California, Berkeley and most recently author of “The College Dropout Scandal”.
The Times commits to publish a variety of letters For the publisher. We would love to hear what you think of this article or any of our articles. Here is some tips. And here is our email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow the Opinion section of the New York Times on Facebook, Twitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.