Global Campus remains on shaky ground

Last week’s board of trustees meeting yielded quite a contrast between two University initiatives. Officials claim each will help globalize this institution’s reputation but for the moment, only one seems to have a real chance.

Trustees approved a brand new $50 million facility that will be built in Singapore. The entire project is funded by the government of Singapore and will see students and faculty travel between both campuses to earn advanced degrees in certain areas, including engineering and computer science. This partnership is also a huge opportunity for this campus’ best and brightest to collaborate with their foreign colleagues in cutting-edge research that has given this university its most recognized achievements.

The other side of the coin is Global Campus. In January, the program launched with an anemic 15 students – 14 of them hailing from Illinois.

At that time, 75 students were expected to be enrolled by May. As it turns out, the number of current enrollees is only 42. Original expectations of 250 enrollees at this point in the calendar have proven to be incorrect.

Then, as the case is now, administrators cited a lack of marketing as the main reason why the program was not up to speed. While it’s understandable that students cannot enroll in something they don’t know about, there are lingering doubts about the overall worth of the program.

With the $3.4 million approved by the trustees last week, the total amount of money spent on Global Campus is close to breaking the eight-figure mark. Considering the unlikelihood of the University receiving any increase in state funding – which, adjusted for rising costs, translates into a de facto cut – that investment looks shakier with each disappointing progress report.

Before its inception, Global Campus was only projected to be profitable after three years. Since it’s safe to assume that the best case scenario will not be met, trustees should adjust their expectations accordingly. Firm benchmarks for the program’s success should be adopted and adhered to before the University continually pours money into the project in the face of diminishing hopes of return.