High-quality ed is the utmost priority

Von Lanier

Colleges set a precedent to provide many amenities for their respective student body, but the major priority should always be education first and foremost.

Partnerships between the public and private sectors are becoming somewhat of an enterprise when it comes to higher education. Colleges—especially universities—usually mean large amounts of money. Selling homes was once considered the “traditional” method of real estate but has evolved rapidly and the student housing sector is now “where it’s at” for many private companies such as EdR Collegiate Housing.

Institutions that have contracts with companies like EdR, such as the University of Michigan, Michigan State and the University of Kentucky, probably find these type of public and private partnerships beneficial to curb issues like budget constraints. However, as schools begin negotiating with these companies, and education starts to commingle with private money, there should never pose a trade-off of higher quality education for “newer stuff.”

Decent infrastructure and modernity are both essential for attracting lots of students, but what allows good colleges to maintain their uniqueness is a balance of tradition and an unfaltering consistency in good teaching methods.

This mustn’t be forgotten by colleges throughout the United Kingdom, which were first to start privatizing their dorms, and neither should it be forgotten by institutions in the United States like Northern Michigan University.

Arguably, NMU will have more funds available for academia if it doesn’t have to fund the construction for new dorms scheduled to be completed by the winter semester of 2018 and funded by EdR.

Most private investment in student housing takes place off campus, but the marketing of on-campus residency is a somewhat new breakthrough in the rise of private development for student housing. This unique method of real estate became popular in 2005, and is now an estimated $4-5 billion business.

Our campus will get some nice new dormitories, but there will be costs associated with them, such as increased room and board fees to reside in them upon completion, relocation of the native plants area near the New Science Facility and investors will control management of the building for a limited time after construction.

The biggest question we should ask ourselves is, what effect will the presence of ‘Uncle Ed’ (EdR) have on the learning atmosphere if third-party employees are going to be sticking around for a few years after the dorms are built? Another question is, what effect all this private spending will eventually have on the curriculum of invested institutions further down the road.

The relationship seems mutually beneficial for both sides, but no one really knows how these negotiations will fare after a certain amount of time. Public-private partnerships will have effects on student accommodation at the university level, but whether those will be positive or detrimental, cannot yet be foretold.

Postsecondary institutions must remain wary of the role that private companies like EdR and Asset Campus Housing intend to play moving forward in higher education. College towns and places that have a large campus-based community should also monitor the criteria of these private developers who assumably are in for major tax breaks and credits every fiscal year.

The rise of private student housing is an example of how colleges are racing to modernize because they want to massively increase enrollment rates, but enrollment shouldn’t be all that matters. Without quality education, college doesn’t really serve a point. No one wants to accrue four years of debt and not learn about anything they can contribute to a certain profession. Too many amenities, like the ones that will come with new dorms, can sometimes do more harm than good. With amenities come distraction, and too much distraction isn’t good for anyone.

Indeed NMU could use a makeover, but we have to be certain we’re heading in the right direction of higher learning—not just modernizing to compete with other schools.