University residences used to be about providing an affordable communal living environment for students. Today, Universities have turned them into profit centres on campus. Sure, there are common areas, but the idea is to give students has much private space as possible at the highest price possible. It should come as no surprise that the private sector is looking at university housing profits margins and looking to cash in themselves. Canadian Apartment Magazine, a trade publication catering to apartment owners and managers, ran an opinion piece last month written by Derek Lobo noting that student housing is a profitable growth market, “you can get more dollars per square foot than a conventional apartment.” (Hattip: Glen Weppler’s blog)
An article published by Inside Higher Ed (which has become a strong website over the last few months) notes that American public flagship universities are failing at increasing the percentage of their student body originating from underprivileged backgrounds. The problem is that while the universities are increasing the percentage of their overall aid directed at the lowest income students, they continue to pump massive amounts of money into aid for the highest achieving potential students which is increasing the representation of students from rich families. The following paragraph can easily apply in a Canadian context:
“But countervailing pressures — especially the desire to recruit the most academically skilled students in order to climb in college rankings schemes — have led them to continue to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on students with no financial need.”
While the increase in aid for the neediest students at American flagships is admirable, it is not doing enough to address social mobility.
On the topic of social mobility, a column in The Guardian, on the topic notes that 75% of British judges attended private schools. This is a frightening statistic when you consider that only 7% of British society attends private schools.
A great Q&A published by Time Magazine describes many of the factors that contribute to the lack of accountability of American universities. The Q&A highlights one of the major problems in higher education, they tend to avoid releasing date they have.