Eye on Education

Former Miami University President Says the “Country Clubification” of College Has a Dark Side

Former Miami University President James Garland led successful efforts to recruit more out-of-state students to Miami University by marketing the public college as a market “a kind of elite public university.” Those efforts included using merit aid and borrowing heavily to upgrade the school’s recreational facilities and dorms.

But he tells Pro Publica that while those efforts paid off for Miami University financially, they had a downside. Garland says he wishes he had been more aware of how things like installing climbing walls in gyms and serving sushi in dining halls can hurt a school’s academic rigor and standards.

I just think there’s a movement these days among universities that are able to do this, to turn themselves into country clubs. But inevitably that comes at expense of academic rigor and the quality of the academic program.

In my tenure we certainly contributed to this trend. And there’s a price you pay for that. For every dollar you put into building a student sports facility –- workout rooms and exercise rooms and squash courts and things of that sort — every dollar you put into that is a dollar you’re not spending on improving classrooms or paying your professors a high enough wage that you can recruit from higher up in job pool…

The problematic thing is that it loads the universities up with debt and with everyone doing it, the competitive advantage of doing it is quickly lost. If everyone is trying to recruit from the same pool of students, then there are no winners. Everyone just spends a lot of money and gets the same number of students.

Read more at: www.propublica.org

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