There has been a narrative for quite sometime about campus building and amenities—you know, lazy rivers, climbing walls, fancy cafeterias…the whole 9 yards. I could talk a lot about the amenities boom on the athletics side of campus—the Athlete Villages and gated communities built just for revenue producing athletes. But, this podcast goes deeper than that.
My guest today is Karin Fischer, senior writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education. Along with Lindsay Ellis, she wrote a fascinating article called The Heavy Cost of an Empty Campus. They dove into the fast changing state funding landscape in places like Kansas and Oregon, and how higher education leaders chose to react. From a 2021 vantage point, it looks like the financial model based on the presence of students on-campus full-time is flailing and failing.
And Kansas' attempts to remain relevant to students who want to attend a campus with a big time athletics program fell flat in March when Head Football Coach Les Miles and Athletics Director Jeff Long both left town with multi-million dollar payouts.
Debt service, debt, fewer full pay students on campus, and an athletics department in free-fall. Is student consumerism the answer?
They wrote: "Administrators also hoped a sweeping campus renovation, including a state-of-the-art science building, modern student apartments, and a new student union, would boost the university’s appeal. The two efforts, in fact, were mutually dependent — college officials were counting on international students to help fund the Central District, as the multimillion-dollar construction project was known. They would borrow to erect the buildings and use foreign-student revenues to pay their creditors.”
Then the pandemic hit, and combined with the Trump administration’s emphasis on limiting immigration, the number of international students attending top universities has dropped precipitously as well. Student revenue — revenue frequently tied to students’ physical presence on campus — keeps the lights on. Enter P3 Consumerism--Public Private Partnerships.
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