A number of universities, blinded by the idea of luring more students, are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on luxurious campus facilities. As most universities across the country struggle with the budget, competition has broken out between some colleges over the lavishness of student facilities. This contest has the capability to bleed these schools dry.
So what do these universities have that USF doesn’t? How about the hot tubs, waterfalls and pool slides at the University of Houston. Or the proposed water park with water slides, lazy river, and a water deck (a flat, moving sheet of water) for the students of University of Southern Mississippi to stay cool while they sunbathe. Then there are the pedicures, manicures, and massages that have left the students of the University of Wisconsin wondering, “Where do we go for lap dances?”
Elsewhere, Ohio State University is spending $140 million on a recreation complex dubbed the Taj Mahal and Cornell is blowing $259 million on projects designated for “student life” and residential facilities.
Clare Cotton, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts, says, “It’s exactly the psychology of an arms race. From the outside it seems totally crazy, but from the inside it feels necessary and compelling.”
These extravagant expenditures are being funded when, according to Moody’s Investors Service, universities borrowed $2 billion more in 2003 than in 2000.
In nearly every case the students are forced to pay for these luxuries through mandatory student fees. A report in The New York Times stated students at these universities are mostly complacent on this issue, viewing the facilities as benefits that just show up later in a bill.
It is hard to view these expenditures as anything but frivolous. Apparently, while university students in China are crammed seven to a dorm, the students of Pennsylvania State University are living it up in the student center with two ballrooms, three art galleries and a movie theater with surround sound.
The New York Times states, “any campus without, say, a nightclub and a food court is as obsolete as an eight-track cassette.” Well USF students, welcome to Eight-Track U.