Citing financial losses and student apathy, TAMIU closed its seven-year-old, nationally-accredited social work program. Its phase-out will be complete in 2010.The university's decision sparked an outcry among department members and students, as well as community social workers. "It's very hard to believe that this university, given the tremendous need for social work in the community, will not support this program," said Elaine Davila, a former instructor. She is now employed with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The program has about 42 student majors and 12 minors, a number that department officials say is comparable to other universities. But Texas A&M International University officials say enrollment is too low.
"If we had 80 majors, we wouldn't be having this discussion," said Ray Keck III, TAMIU president. "We thought that the great, great, great need for social work in Laredo would translate into a great interest for pursuing it. That didn't happen. (The program) has been in trouble for a number of years."
At this point, Keck said, TAMIU has two areas needing more funding: business and health sciences.
[ . . . ]
TAMIU Provost Dan Jones said, however, that few Laredoans are interested in social work to begin with.
"We live in an area that has a high poverty rate, but social work is not a career path that many students choose," Jones said.
[ . . . ]
"Our recruiters who go out to the high schools will market and respond to what students ask about," Keck said. "I've asked them, and they said they have never had a student ask about social work."
Setting aside, for the moment, the Provost's strange choice of conjunctions, above (sadly, I don't think he even meant to say "We live in an area that has a high poverty rate, so social work is not a career path that many students choose"): what kind of high-school student -- particularly one talking to a recruiter from a regional state university -- says he is considering social work as a major? How many high school students in a historically ignored and underfunded part of the country even know what social work is?
Still more from Keck:
For the record, I'm really just asking: is this what we want from higher education?
Furthermore, the role of a university is not to provide programs that meet the needs of a community, Keck said.
"We're not funded to provide what the community needs. We're funded to provide the education that students want to pursue," he said.
Maybe we could build a drive-through lane . . .