What’s The Payoff For The ‘Country Club’ College?

For the past 15 years or so, colleges have experienced a tremendous building boom, and the most publicized aspects of the boom have been the amenities: the climbing walls, the swank student unions, and the luxury dorms.

Even in the midst of a national financial crisis, the buildings seemed to get more opulent. The Wall Street Journal, for example, recently noted the “resort living” on college campuses. A new residence hall at Saint Leo University, in Florida, features a 2,100-gallon aquarium, a relaxation room with futuristic “spherical nap pods,” big-screen televisions, and more, according to The Tampa Tribune. A Saint Leo sophomore called it “ridiculously amazing.”

Other people—particularly those predicting a shakeout for higher education—might call it just plain ridiculous. Shouldn’t higher education put more money into, um, education and less of this stuff?

That depends on the college, according to Brian Jacob, Brian McCall, and Kevin M. Stange, all at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. In a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, they analyze the “college as country club” and the pressure on institutions to cater to students’ desire for “consumption amenities.”

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