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End the higher education ‘arms race’

One student has had enough with the “arms race” in higher education—the tendency of universities and colleges to spend staggering amounts of money on lavish amenities to attract more and more students.

These undertakings “signal wealth and prestige but have minimal effect on students’ educational experience,” writes Jacob Mequet at The Daily Trojan.

Mequet, a student at the University of Southern California, writes that his school has “time and again [proven] its full-throated embrace of the higher education arms race.” Over an eight-year period, he points out, the university has made numerous high-dollar investments in glitzy infrastructure:

…USC fully renovated the Lyon Center and the Heritage Hall athletics complex, and it opened the Uytengsu Aquatics Center. The University hired former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former U.S. Army general David Petraeus as faculty members, two men who had no experience in higher education at the time they were hired and have not taught regularly since. USC opened the Tutor Campus Center, which has some academic utility with a few classrooms and lecture halls on the second floor but boasts a campus dining center and a large indoor event space as its primary features. And it finished construction of USC Village, perhaps the University’s greatest example of ostentatious spending, complete with retailers, high-end restaurants and a host of other new amenities.

Though the school has noted that it has funded these projects with the help of “generous donations,” Mequet dismisses that qualifier. “Even if, for the sake of argument, all the aforementioned projects were completely funded by donations — and not at all by students’ tuition and fees — their status as one of USC’s institutional priorities over the past decade must come to an end.”

“These unworthy priorities consumes resources — to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars — that could be allocated to financial aid, adequate pay for adjunct faculty, more modern classrooms and other investments that directly affect students’ academic experience at USC,” he writes, urging the school’s president to “reevaluate the University’s participation in the higher education arms race.”

Read the article here.

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