Sunday, December 13, 2015

Up the Lazy River without a paddle: Universities use student fees to fund campus renovations and construction

In spite of financial woes so severe that LSU president F. King Alexander ruminated publicly about institutional bankruptcy, Louisiana State University is moving forward with an $85 million "leisure project" that will include a man-made "Lazy River" that spells out "LSU."

Shouldn't this project be put on hold until LSU's financial problems are solved? Not at all. LSU administrators insist that The Lazy River has nothing to do with LSU's budget worries.  This entirely gratuitous facility will be funded by a special fee assessment, which was earmarked for the Lazy River and the Lazy River alone.

But why? Laurie Braden, LSU's Director of Recreation said simply this: "I will put it up against any other collegiate recreational facility in the country when we are done because we will be the benchmark for the next level.”

Of course, LSU is not the only institution that is using student fees to fund campus construction and renovation projects. The New York Times reported recently that some universities are tacking mandatory meal plans on students' tuition bills, even if they don't eat on campus.  As reported in the Times, the University of Tennessee slapped a $300-per-semester meal plan on all undergraduates who do not purchase other meal plans, including commuters. The revenue generated will help pay for a new student union.

According to the Times, universities are outsourcing food services to private contractors and boasting about the cost savings. But as the Times noted, the cost of these contractual arrangements generally gets passed on to students.

Moreover, Times reporter Stephanie Saul wrote, "the particulars of the contracts reveal that much of the meal plan cost does not go for food at all. Colleges use the money to shore up their balance sheets, build workout facilities, create academic programs and projects, fund special "training tables" to feed athletes, and even pay for meals for prospective students touring campus."

All across America, anguished families are struggling with the high cost of attending college. "Why does it cost so much?" they ask.  "Reduced state funding,"glassy-eyed college administrators always mutter: that's the sole source of the problem.

But that's not true. Excessive student fees, outsourcing student services, cozy contractual relations with banks that manage students' money--all these things add up.

Why do college leaders outsource so many services and tack on so many fees?

Because they're lazy.  It is easier for university administrators to raise tuition every year and to tack on additional fees and charges than to make tough decisions about managing their institutions more efficiently.

So Lazy River is an apt metaphor for the state of higher education today. Every year, millions of students borrow more and more money in order to drift up a lazy river of increasingly expensive higher education, inching their way toward financial disaster.

The situation wouldn't be so bad if deserving students could discharge their overwhelming student-loan debt in bankruptcy. But most of them can't. They've truly gone up that Lazy River without a paddle.


LSU's proposed water recreation facility:
Up the Lazy River without a paddle

References

Stephanie Saul. Student Meal Plans Also Fund Renovations at Some Colleges.  New York Times, December 6, 2015, p. 1. Accessible at: http://www.houstonchronicle.com/news/nation-world/nation/article/Student-meal-plans-also-fund-renovations-at-some-6678716.php

Aalia Shaheed. LSU's *85M 'lazy river' leisure project rolls on, despite school's budget woes. Fox News, May 17, 2015.  Accessible at: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/05/17/lsu-85m-lazy-river-leisure-project-rolls-on-despite-school-budget-woes/

3 comments:

  1. The Lazy River Project is absurd! Why does a college need a water park? Ridiculous waste of money and an affront to the parents and students of LSU. I thought student fees were to help pay for classroom supplies like chemical class supplies etc. I did not have time as a student to do any recreation, I rarely set foot in the gym... I was too busy trying to study and pass my classes and graduate. Which I did with honors.... Only to learn that there were no jobs in my major and to end up in a state where I now am filing Bankruptcy under undue hardship!

    ReplyDelete
  2. This article is actually remarkable one it helps many new users that desire to read always the best stuff.
    Wix web site

    ReplyDelete
  3. I hope you will share such type of impressive contents again with us so that we can utilize it and get more advantage. dinero urgente

    ReplyDelete