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Colleges at the Crossroads

Taking Sides on Contested Issues

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Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis and Pietro A. Sasso

Focusing on crucial issues in higher education, this book challenges readers to go beyond taken-for-granted assumptions about America’s colleges and universities and instead critically examine important questions facing them in today’s troubled world. Each chapter presents divergent perspectives, that is, "pro" and "con" views, in the hope of stimulating reasoned dialogue among students, faculty, administrators, and the public at large. Readers will explore how internal factors in the academic community often interact with external social, economic, and political influences to produce conflictual results. They will see that academe is hardly value-neutral and inevitably political. This book urges them to transcend strident political persuasion and instead engage in the careful analysis needed to make colleges better.

The text provides in-depth appraisal of key topics of controversy: the purposes of higher education, liberal education, academic freedom, political correctness, tenure, shared governance, faculty workload, admissions tests, student learning, Greek life, the worth of college, equity and social justice, athletics, student entitlement, technology and distance instruction, and college amenities. The book will appeal to students, faculty, staff, and all those interested in the future of higher education. It is especially useful for courses in contemporary issues in higher education, foundations of higher education, higher education and society, college student development, and the organization and administration of higher education.

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Part Thirteen: Are Colleges Spending Too Much on Amenities?

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← 374 | 375 →

Part Thirteen:  Are Colleges Spending Too Much on Amenities?

In “The College Arms Race: How It Is Destroying Higher Education in the United States,” Matthew Varga and Scott L. Lingrell describe how private and public colleges use increases in tuition and student fees to support “unsustainable spending levels” in the face of economic downturn and recession. They charge that higher internal spending is part of efforts to remain competitive within changing student demographics and market shifts. Varga and Lingrell predict that any institutions unable to maintain sustainable enrollments through admissions and retention will shutter. They also paint a dim picture for private–public partnerships within state colleges and worry about the problematic consequences of further privatizing campus amenities.

In “The Need for College Amenities and Their Benefit to the Student and Institution’s Success,” Steven Tolman and Christopher Trautman define “amenities” as campus entities beyond the academic support system of academic advising and career services. They justify mainly those amenities connected to student development. Tolman and Trautman criticize the use of excessive amenities such as opulent resident and dining halls, palatial recreational centers, and the like. Yet they cite data indicating that some such amenities may be necessary to promote the now expected “student experience” in American higher education. In the end, the authors propose a responsible spending model related to student outcomes while acknowledging that the “college arms race” has benefits to students as consumers. ← 375 | 376 →

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