A rising intellect lifts all students
A story published by Oklahoma Watch on August 1 detailed the University of Oklahoma’s cutting back of its National Merit Scholars Program. The program recruits and gives scholarships to students who score in the top 1 percent on a standardized test. Sequoyah County has had several high school graduates attend OU as recipients of this program. It has been a great way to keep our brightest students in the state.
The program successfully made OU number one in the country with the most National Merit Scholars attending a public university. Previous OU President David Boren even touted in the last three years that OU had more than any university, public or private, including Harvard and Yale, the article states.
Beyond OU athletics, it is what people talked about and what OU promoted.
The story goes on to say that this fall’s class has about half as many National Merit Scholars, an estimated 155 to 160, because the office dedicated to recruiting and retaining these students has been cut back.
From the outside, it looks like this decision is another in the cost-cutting plan of OU President James Gallogly, who replaced David Boren on July 1. Gallogly has started his time as university president on a tear, cutting staff (including his direct reports) and working to get a better handle on OU’s Norman campus’ $1 billion in debt.
I applaud Gallogly’s attempt to get OU’s fiscal house in order, but fear cutting National Merit scholarships could hurt student production and lower the reputation of a great public institution. When someone of extraordinary skill or intelligence works or studies along side a group, the group naturally increases its performance because they see what can be accomplished.
When I was in law school, I was in a study group with a Yale graduate. She was brilliant. You better believe I brought my A game every time our group met. She helped increase my potential by working at her own level. This is akin to the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats,” but to fit in this case, the discussion, thought process and classwork are what generally improve. Not to mention that if the class is graded on a curve and you know there are National Merit Scholars in your class, you’ll have to work a little harder than if they were not there.
He is not asking, but if I were Gallogly, I would look to lower costs on luxury student living, not scholarships for the best and brightest.
To read Oklahoma Watch’s story, go to oklahomawatch.org.