Monday, March 2, 2009

Enrollments in Economics Courses Surge

An NPR story yesterday about how students are flocking to economics classes. I don't know if it is happening here at Oregon State, but it might not matter because we are struggling here in the economics department to even cover the bare bones curriculum we currently offer - an artifact of the university's long and recently renewed underinvestment in core arts and sciences in favor of more applied areas. This is a good strategy for chasing grant money but horrible for undergrads. OSU gets lots of recognition for things like forestry and oceanography, but there is a reason it is the worst ranked school in the Pac 10 - it does not have strength in the areas that are fundamental to undergraduate education.

OSU gets another mention, this time in the New York Times, about a surge in undergraduate applications (up 12 percent and transfer apps up 31 percent). I am sure the temptation is to admit a large freshman and transfer class. But with budgets being slashed one wonders how they are going to find classes to take. Even if we find people to teach the classes we don't have the classroom space to do it in. My spring term International Economics course immediately filled up and I don't have any desks left to add more students. What a shame, has their ever been a better time to understand international economics?

Ah well, the reality is that the economic downturn is comprehensive and we are all going to have to deal with it as best we can. And if anyone out there wants to study economics at OSU, you will find a group of dedicated scholars and educators excited to have you join us. We will make it work, don't worry - if there is one thing economists are good at, it is dealing with scarcity. We are currently undergoing a comprehensive restructuring of the economics major to make it more flexible and to offer more options, so stay tuned, but for a look at what we currently offer, go here.

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