Monday, October 06, 2008

Graham Modeled a Pair of Rose-Colored Glasses For the CDT

Saturday's Centre Daily Times had a story on the impact on Penn State of the unwinding financial crisis by Anne Danahy.  I didn't mention or link to the CDT article in my earlier post about the crisis because the article didn't really add much more to the mix than the Penn State Propaganda Portal gave.

It turns out that the story was based on a conversation Graham had with the CDT editorial board. Whoda guessed? While the article does quote Graham, it never mentions the sitdown with the editorial board. Anyway, it seems that that Anne failed to report on one of Graham's talking points. So today Bob Heisse dutifully adds the talking point to the record in his blog.

How popular is Penn State?

Well a key measurement is in student applications, and Penn State has received 101,497 applications this year.

That's just under the Beaver Stadium capacity, if you want a comparison. Pretty impressive indeed.

Penn State President Graham Spanier shared the figure in a wide-ranging conversation Friday with our editorial board. Anne Danahy reported key points from that meeting in her Saturday story.

From this it is  not clear  in what context Graham brought up the student applications. But since the article  which is based on the conversation deals only with the financial crisis it is reasonable to assume that Graham brought it up in that context.

Did Graham argue that Penn State is well position to weather the crisis because of Penn State's popularity with potential students? If he did it is a rather specious argument. First off, I looked at this claim of popularity earlier this year and found that it didn't hold up for a number of reasons. Graham arrives at the number by grouping together the applications at all campuses. The applications at University Park alone are not all that impressive and neither is the yield rate at the main campus which ranks 38th nationwide.

What relevance does this have for the financial crisis?  Suppose that Penn State has to up tuition and it finds itself pricing potential qualified students out of the market. Because of the debt and other fixed cost the University will have to maintain enrollment at certain levels. This means, because of its below average yield rate,  that it will have to take advantage of its "popularity" by opening its doors to student that can pay the tuition, but can't meet current academic standards.

Is this what Graham has in mind?  Does he really think that this will be Penn State's lifeline in the crisis? If he does that would mean that he actually buys into his own bullshit and that bodes poorly for Penn State in these tough times. The last thing you want in a crisis is a delusional leader.

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