Imagine waking up on a Saturday and going into a brand new Lane Stadium on game day - a stadium that is completely renovated and redesigned. Now imagine that happening with no increase in tuition or without any government subsidies.
This idea is not too far outside the realm of possibility. Thanks to the investors at clothing chain Abercrombie & Fitch, the way that colleges generate revenue could, and more importantly should, change substantially.
The Ohio State University’s Board of Trustees will vote Friday on a possible name change to their newly expanded emergency medical center. Because of A&F’s past philanthropic support towards Ohio State, most notably a $10 million gift by the company towards the school’s medical programs, the Board is considering naming the entire emergency medical center after the company.
If the vote is successful, the precedent could be set for the commercialization of other parts of colleges. Companies would be able to market their brands by contributing funds towards the building of new colleges. Imagine entire dining centers fully sponsored by food service companies, or new engineering and business buildings financed by firms in their respective fields. Better yet, entire dorms financed by hotel chains. The possibilities are seemingly endless.
There will be a cost however. Much of the charm and feel of a college is instilled in the history of the institution. Much could be lost if colleges “sold out” and instead of naming buildings after people who have impacted the university, they go to the highest bidder.
These costs may seem great at first, but such is the price of progress. In order to answer the looming question of the rapidly increasing cost of college not just on students, but on the federal government, we have to do something. Why not let capitalism do its job?
In this market, colleges would be able to finance huge developments that they never would have thought economically feasible. Instead of raising tuition prices colleges could look for corporate partnerships and investments. Instead of asking for more government money and further increases in our taxes, institutions could head into the private sector to secure assets.
With more incoming cash flows, colleges could specialize and develop top tier talent in cutting edge fields here in America instead of having to outsource information.
Universities could also develop further connections with the private sector. By sponsoring college departments, corporations could be able to create a pipeline into the job market. They would have an outlet to teach skills that their future employees would need long before hiring.
But the best part of the situation is that the colleges would be in control. With many clear advantages posed to the firms, the colleges would be in the driver’s seat to hopefully mitigate any substantial changes to their institution.
The opportunities are vast and heavily outweigh the costs. In order to again consider ourselves a true world power we need to spend time and money investing in the future of the country. And by that I don’t mean machines, or anything tangible. We need to invest in our people, our human capital.