I attended college from 1973 to 1978. I remember the dormitories as though it was yesterday. They were dank, cinder block affairs. Furniture was Army issue. The lounges were places for Stalinist electro-shock therapy. Sofas were covered with duct tape.
Crossing campus you’d find the gymnasium was much the same. You could smell decades of liniment. The showers seldom worked. And for the classrooms? Desks with graffiti. Cracked linoleum. Spastic fluorescent lights.
I’m one of those who never left the ivory tower. I’m a senior professor these days. I’ve watched with disapprobation as higher ed has fought a space race for “the country club campus” with “lazy river” swimming pools, rock climbing walls, Hilton-esque residence halls, gourmet dining, celebrity concerts, and of course, stadiums and arenas fit for professional sports.
Tuition at the private college I attended was roughly $3000 per year in 1975. This adjusts to $14,000 today. That same college now charges over $50,000 a year.
College administrators know that the lion’s share of tuition doesn’t go to faculty salaries and programatic support. COVID-19 is bringing the chickens home to roost. Students and their families were willing to money up exorbitant tuition dollars when they paid for the Club Med experience promised them by campus tour guides. Minus the resort they don’t want to pay for classes and academics.
I believe that even after we’ve come through the virus crisis students and parents are going to want a change in how tuition dollars are spent. I think students who are willing to live as I did would cheerfully pay less for the on campus experience. One should have the option of living on campus while paying nothing for the frills. If you’re really resort minded you could pay a day fee. Students should not have to bear the costs of irresponsible luxury appointments on today’s campuses.