Why We Shouldn’t Think About College as a Business
We conventionally think of college as a place where you can discover new ideas, indulge curiosities and learn for the sake of learning. As tuition skyrockets and becomes less accessible for everyone, however, students have been compelled to think of college from a business perspective instead. In the 2010s, much of the discussion surrounding higher education is less about education and more about its suitability as an investment, like real estate or publicly traded stock.
While there are conflicting opinions on the cause of rising tuition, students are relying on loans now more than ever to fund their education, leading student debt in the United States to top $1 trillion.
“In absolute dollars, the price of college has increased by 1,120 percent since 1978, more than any other good or service in the entire U.S. economy,” said the filmmaker Andrew Rossi, who directed the student debt documentary “Ivory Tower.” “The entire model of American higher education is predicated on a constantly expanding cost structure which has resulted in a broader cultural transition from viewing college as a public good to a private benefit pursued by students and parents as consumers.”
As “Ivory Tower” shows, colleges invest in facilities and amenities, like multimillion-dollar recreation centers or luxury dorms, to attract attendees, who have increasingly become more like customers than students. It’s what many critics call the “corporatism” of college. There’s an important discussion on what this means for the economy, but it’s also worth looking at the effect this corporatization has on the philosophy of higher learning in general.