Thursday, September 04, 2008

Stern Shoots Itself in Foot?

That was my initial reaction when reading a few articles in the first edition of this year's Observer, because of this single quote in an article about the new requirements in YU's Stern College for Women: (emphasis added)
The Judaic studies CORE structure is changing as well. Students will still be required to take six semesters of CORE plus fourteen additional Judaic studies credits, but there will be a reduction in credit earned for study in Israel - a maximum credit number of 27 will replace the current one of 36. This means that students who study in Israel after high school will be earning the equivalent amount of credit as students who elect to come to SCW as freshmen.
While surely Stern is trying to portray itself as more serious in the academic world by doing this, and there is certainly something to be said for that, the simple truth is that this decision will likely cost them students in the coming years. If I'm not mistaken, not only Touro University but also CUNY's Queens and Brooklyn Colleges offer more credits for the year in Israel (not to mention all the smaller programs that likely are less competition toward Stern). When prospective students in many fields are deciding what college to attend, and are planning on attending a school in Israel for a year (or two), they want to know that when they come back they will have as many credits as possible. This factor along with cost are two major factors where Stern loses against its primary competitors after this decision, and while certainly YU will argue that their education is of a higher caliber, it is hard for them to show demonstrably better results down the road for their alumni in recent years.

This is a situation where Stern (or YU) seems to have been blinded by the desire to keep itself in the top tier of university rankings at the expense of catering to its core demographic. The people who wish to attend Stern are bright, and mostly religious, young Jewish women who quite often wish to spend a year or more in Israel to learn, to study, to self-inspire, and to be inspired. They are quite often people who can be successful wherever they attend college, and whom Stern needs more than they need Stern. By offering further disincentives to attending Stern over those other options, Stern seems to be making a rather large mistake.