Via this weeks’ Carnival of Education, I read a post at Number 2 Pencil. The main jist of the post is that places of higher learning shouldn’t be building new residence halls and higher tech classrooms just because the incoming students expect it.
My question is, why not? If the school has the money available, higher tech classrooms can be beneficial to the learning experience of every student that gets to use them. But the high tech classrooms part isn’t what got my hackles up, the better quality res halls is.
Guess what? I hadn’t ever shared a bathroom or a bedroom when I went to college, nor had I ever lived without central AC. Did that stop USC from putting me, an Honors College student, into an all-female dorm with hall bathrooms and no AC whatsoever? No, it did not.
Well, guess what? (At least where I work) Housing is a self supported business, meaning we have to attract and retain customers to pay the salaries of the people that work here and to continue to provide the services that we do. This means we have to compete with an ever changing, ever upgrading market of apartment complexes and smaller landlords that are going the extra mile to get students to move out of the res halls and into their properties. While we do have somewhat of a captured market with our freshman certified housing rules, there are private facilities that are in that market as well so we can’t be too complacent.
I’m not saying that every one of our residence halls should be like a penthouse suite at a Vegas casino, but don’t you think laundry facilities should be accessible without walking to some large central laundromat? Maybe air conditioning and some carpet instead of tile floors? Remember, we are trying to increase return customers here, offering these types of amenities is just one carrot out there on the end of the stick. When was the last time you saw a Studebaker or Yugo dealership? Innovate, update, evolve or get pushed out of the market.
I lived in our facilities for 4 years as an undergraduate, and I’m happy to say that, yes, I’m probably a better person for the experience, but did I really need to sweat through those 4 or 5 weeks a year that we needed AC to get the temp down? Do our incoming students need to use a networking infrastructure (the physical wiring) that was installed in the late 1980s, well before they were born?