How Campus Construction Jacks Up Your College Tuition

Photo: fullvalue (Getty Images)

College and universities are clearly expanding by every metric including property, profit, and population. As a result of this growth, you end up with college and university campuses constantly under construction.

Currently, the University of Central Florida (UFC) is making massive renovations to its library, tearing down the building where the History department use to be located, and constructing a new downtown campus. This is just a short list of UFC’s current projects, all of which can be found on their facilities planning and construction web page. Florida International also just completed a new campus in the Biscayne area. Santa Monica College is constructing a Malibu campus; Collin Technical College is building a new campus in Allen, Texas; and Bates College has an entire series on their website about construction updates.

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It’s easy to forget in the wake of construction how much these projects cost. The University of Oregon has a massive list of current construction or renovation projects which include furniture remodeling in and replacing the entire speaker system at Autzen Stadium. At Texas A&M, there’s a whole slew of renovation projects including updates to the Student Recreation Center, the Engineering Education Complex, and fixes to Kyle Field.

The Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Photo: traveler1116 (Getty Images)

Constant construction and maintenance are clearly not cheap and may explain why tuition costs have soared more than a SpaceX rocket. Does this constant construction benefit students and staff? Maybe, but how we would measure that? What is clear is that construction hurts students by hiking up the price of their tuition.

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The problem is compounded by the fact that universities can justify massive private donations, government funds, and increased tuition due in part to these construction projects. These universities have incentives to conduct often unneeded construction projects while several classrooms on campuses already go virtually unused. This is obviously not to say that every construction or maintenance project is unneeded, but some projects, such as a statue of Confucius at Miami Dade College or an Equestrian Facility at Auburn University, seem superfluous.

The University of California, Davis, built the largest “zero net energy” community for student and faculty housing in the country. Photo: Billy Hustace (Getty Images)

Colleges no longer have the sole goal of educating students but now also must sell themselves to consumers. Of course, many people use college educations to their benefit; in fact, some must trudge through this nonsense system to work in a chosen field. It just seems that colleges and universities have become more businesses-minded over the years, and now prioritize profits just like Coca-Cola or Goldman Sachs. Students are being pulled into debt traps by colleges and universities that dangle brand-new recreational centers and or shiny dining facilities in front of them when what they really need are competent professors, access to functional technology, and mental health services.