The University As Resort
The NYT reports that many US colleges have built fancy facilities, and have had to raise tuition to pay for them:
The debate about indebtedness has focused on students and graduates who have borrowed tens of thousands of dollars and are struggling to keep up with their payments. Nearly one in every six borrowers with a student loanbalance is in default.
But some colleges and universities have also borrowed heavily, spending money on vast expansions and amenities aimed at luring better students: student unions with movie theaters and wine bars; workout facilities with climbing walls and “lazy rivers”; and dormitories with single rooms and private baths. Spending on instruction has grown at a much slower pace, studies have shown. Students end up covering some, if not most, of the debt payments in the form of higher tuition, room and board and special assessments, while in some instances state taxpayers pick up the costs.
Infuriating, that is. Nathan Harden piles on:
This is why those middle-tier universities that have spent the past few decades spending tens or even hundreds of millions to offer students the Disneyland for Geeks experience are going to find themselves in real trouble. Along with luxury dorms and dining halls, vast athletic facilities, state of the art game rooms, theaters and student centers have come layers of staff and non-teaching administrators, all of which drives up the cost of the college degree without enhancing student learning. The biggest mistake a non-ultra-elite university could make today is to spend lavishly to expand its physical space. Buying large swaths of land and erecting vast new buildings is an investment in the past, not the future. Smart universities should be investing in online technology and positioning themselves as leaders in the new frontier of open-source education.
All the brilliant financial geniuses managing these colleges are among the most liberal group in the country, the educated experts who are sure they know better how to run everything else in the country—the ignorant masses should just get out of their way and trust in their wisdom.
But suppose they don’t even know how to run their own colleges? Suppose that, after 200 years of progress, the Busted Boomer generation has actually run the American higher ed system into the ground?