doing a study for a local school on trends it'll have to deal with in
the next 10-20 years, and certainly the increased sense of student as
consumer is a big one. It's easy to blame the boomers on this one,
for wanting it all and having the wealth to get it all for their kids,
who can move in to dorms with housecleaning service and fitness
centers. And since when did "back to school" mean new furniture and
plasma TVs, instead of a new pair of jeans and fresh underwear?
The article notes that Woodrow Wilson, who commissioned residential
buildings as president of Princeton in the early 20th century, saw the
university as a place walled off from the materialism of the outside
world. It looks like that materialism has long seeped in.
And not just on the part of students and their parents. Schools get
less federal support, so naturally they chase students who can pay
full freight. And who can win that crowd without the latest
residential perks, especially when your peer schools are all offering
the same? It's keeping up with the Joneses, only with ivy on your
I'm the last person to say everything has to be the same for everyone;
if you have more money than the next person, you have a responsibility
to share, but you also have a freedom to consume. But universities
need to be careful, lest they become country clubs for the children of
the elite, who graduate after the best four years of their lives and
then wonder why the rest of the world isn't the same.