Monday, March 22, 2010

The future of successful cities: massive expansion of universities

This New York Times article explains how New York University intends to expand its physical campus in the City by 40%.

Forty percent!

There are 40,000-some students at NYU today. By 2031, NYU expects to educate 46,500.

That's how to lead the future! As University President John Sexton said "for New York to be a great city, we need N.Y.U. to be a great university."

That means Chicago should be actively encouraging Northwestern, DePaul, Loyola, UIC and the University of Chicago (not to mention Columbia, Roosevelt and Robert Morris) to each be expanding as aggressively as their endowments can support. That's how we'll build the future leaders of our economy. And that's how we'll make Chicago great.

Similarly, Downstate cities in Illinois should do everything in their power to grow the universities in their communities. They should bend over backwards to attract for-profit colleges like Robert Morris to their downtowns. And every community should see their community colleges as engines for growth to spin-off private colleges and other partnerships to grow their educational engine.

I know there's always some blowback from 'the community' that opposes university expansion. That means the expansion should be inclusive of the people who live around the university (especially with investments like hiring students to assist public schoolteachers with their classrooms once a week -- a great program I participated in at the University of Chicago). But it should not mean that expansion is halted. The only path to greatness as a city, region and nation is through intelligence and wisdom. Universities more than any other institution generate that intellectual capital. We need them to be larger and stronger.

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