Students pay for College’s project spending in financial crisis

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October 3, 2008

10:45 AM

Both public and private colleges are paying a huge price for fiscal recklessness in the United States. Irresponsible loans made to unqualified homebuyers have pushed colleges into the swell of the national financial crisis.

Students will be forced to compensate for the College of William and Mary’s ongoing projects initiated in more economically comfortable times. The College is trying to impress wealthy alumni in the hopes of garnering more donations. In the dawn of this economic crisis, the College needs to let go of this futile hope since wealthy donors are now more concerned with protecting their millions.

Economists foresee several things happening to colleges during the next few years, all of which are already occurring here at the College. Richard Vedder from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity predicts that the bailout will constrict federal budgets, making reforms on financial aid unlikely.

According to Vedder, “endowment returns are more likely to fall than rise.” Private lenders will stop lending to colleges and, if the economy gets worse, the state will have a smaller budget to appropriate to institutions.

Those consequences of the U.S. credit crunch are hitting the College hard. We’re facing decreases in lending, a huge budget cut and a decline in the endowment.

In the past, private schools have survived financial crises by better selling their school to donors. But improving public image by spending more on building projects does not work during national financial crises.
Disregarding the fact that no one else wants to spend more right now, the College has been trying to encourage donations by pumping money into new buildings and renovations. There’s a point at which building new structures is a positive investment; we’re past that point. The returns for building new structures are diminishing in the face of poorer students, poorer lenders and a poorer College.

Meanwhile, on the campaign trail, both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama have promised more affordability for higher education. What about the budget constraint? The federal government is facing massive spending obligations across the board, as is the Virginia government. No one is going to bail the College out of this financial crisis — it’s just going to have to cope with the decreased funding along with the students. Forcing already-struggling students to pay for construction, superfluous organizations and energy bills is the wrong answer.

The College will have to cut spending one way or another, whether it means cutting the pay of faculty and administrators, raising tuition or cutting funding to a lot of different organizations on campus. We can’t keep spending large amounts of money on new buildings, and the College can’t be under continuous construction.
A school that’s trying to recruit prospective students may have buildings that will be finished in the distant future, but it also has mud everywhere and pockets of stench throughout campus. Construction needs to slow down if the College is hoping to jack up tuition prices and still attract as many prospective students as in recent history.

Justin Pope from the Associated Press writes that colleges are major contributors to the hefty price tag on our education. When universities like ours fail to curtail their spending, it directly affects the rising tuition. The College’s eyes are bigger than its stomach when it comes to attracting donors and prospective students, and it needs to cut back, big time.

Currently, in the midst of the credit crunch, the students are footing more of the bill to pay for construction, professors and energy bills. The College can cut back on everything but the professors; the administration just has to be willing to tighten its belt responsibly.

Brittany Hamilton is a junior at the College.

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