Extraneous luxuries help drive up the cost of college. Matthew LeBar of The Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) suggests that going à la carte would enable families to make wiser choices and curb rising costs.
Colleges have become more than just a place of education. They are as much homes for their students as they are classrooms. As such, many colleges are competing to provide the most lavish amenities to attract students. Some services are generic and uncontroversial, but many are exorbitant and beyond reason. Although these extra amenities may not feel burdensome, they are not free. Student services are financed through student tuition and fees, driving up both.
Some services are sensible, like basic room and board. But other perks like a jumbo Jacuzzi or a climbing wall are unnecessary and unused by many students, yet they add thousands of dollars to a college education.
Give students choices to pay for what they can afford.
Instead of forcing their students to pay for all sorts of extravagant amenities, colleges should give their students the option way to pay for what they want. If a student wants to pay for a gym membership or a climbing wall, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be able to. Only the students who want and use a service should be charged for it. Although taking away Jumbo Jacuzzis also removes the university’s ability to teach student how to relax in style, there are always costs, and it seems doubtful it’s worth the $2,000 students are paying for it.
The schools could still advertise that they offer these amenities, but emphasize that they personalize students’ choices while offering them the best value for their tuition dollars. This might exacerbate class divides that exist within some elite colleges, but no solution is perfect and many families would welcome such choices.