UI offers good student experience without the extravagance
There is a certain nostalgia that surrounds Vandal Friday.
Seeing the crowds of soon-to-be students, the event has a way of bringing up memories of my first Vandal Friday and reminding me of why I chose the University of Idaho.
I’m proud to be a Vandal because UI offers a great student experience without the extravagance that has come to plague higher education.
There is a certain kind of modesty to UI that is often overlooked and unappreciated within higher education.
UI might not have many of the flashy, shallow amenities advertised by other schools, but it is a university that focuses on providing a quality education for Idaho residents.
In an effort to recruit and retain students, other universities used their resources to build extravagant dorms with a number of luxury amenities and over-the-top recreation centers.
The trend is particularly pervasive among large research universities.
Texas Tech University dropped $8.4 million on a water park with a 25-person hot tub, a 64-foot-long lazy river and a diving well with a water slide.
The Aquatic Center at the University of Missouri has an indoor waterfall and a cave-like swimming pool, supposedly inspired by the grotto at the Playboy Mansion, according to ABC News.
An initial construction boom has now turned into a full-fledged arms race between universities over the past 15 years. These luxury amenities have little or nothing to do with academics, but institutions continue to invest, often go into debt and saddle the cost onto students through tuition increases.
There are many other factors that have caused tuition to increase, but in a time when Americans have $1.2 trillion in student loans, the building of a new recreation center to attract students seems irrational.
Despite the misplaced funding priorities by other universities, UI has — to a large extent — not been caught up in the arms race over the past decade. The university has been relatively modest with its building projects compared to its size.
UI has used its limited funds in recent years to fix long-term needs, like replacing roofs and HVAC systems, instead of building non-essential amenities like other land-grant institutions.
For the first time in years, UI has taken on two major construction projects on campus — the building of the Integrated Research and Innovation Center and the renovation of the College of Education Building.
While bonds play a role in funding the projects, both buildings are central to UI’s mission statement and will have a positive affect on the undergraduate and graduate student experience.
With low tuition for in-state students and generous financial packages for many students, I don’t worry for the high school seniors I see wandering from booth to booth on the Kiddle Dome turf.
If they work hard and take advantage of the numerous opportunities at UI, they will have a positive experience and have a bright future ahead of them. This university works for people who work hard, and the modesty of campus buildings and the students is a big part of that.
I’m proud to call myself a Vandal not just because of the reputation of UI, but because of what it represents within higher education.