It’s impossible to ignore the massive changes happening at Drexel. This fall, Gerri LeBow Hall is opening, and students can finally move into Chestnut Square. These improvements are impressive and will certainly pull eyes to Drexel. At the rate Drexel is going with aesthetic and commercial improvements, it’s on its way to looking more and more like a shopping center. While we appreciate these changes and are excited for the luxurious additions to our growing campus, it feels like Drexel is leaving behind some of its core values that have set it apart from other universities since its founding in 1891. The Editorial Board believes that the incoming freshman class should know about Drexel’s roots and the values that are the foundations of our school.
In the beginning, the University was called the Drexel Institute of Art, Science and Industry, and it didn’t even offer degree programs. According to the University’s website, when Anthony J. Drexel founded the school, he wanted to create an institution of higher education that made no restrictions based on race, gender, religion or socioeconomic status, which was a revolutionary concept at that time. In Dan Rottenberg’s biography of Anthony J. Drexel, he explains that “The Drexel Institute…would offer such unprecedented features as low tuition, abundant full scholarships, night classes, and lectures and concerts open to the public.” When the co-op program was introduced in 1919, students were able to have a serious income while enrolled at Drexel, and affording higher education was even easier for those who would not typically have been able to do so.
Now, with students required to live in expensive on-campus housing for their first two years, with overpriced apartments completed at Chestnut Square and one of the highest net tuition costs in the country, it seems we’ve drifted from Drexel’s humble beginnings. Our school was founded with the intent to make higher education available to everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, but it seems like we’re becoming more and more exclusive. Depending on scholarships and financial aid, it could cost students more than $250,000 to earn their degree at Drexel. That’s not exactly accessible for your average working-class family, and even if students put all of their income from co-op toward tuition, it would not even come close to covering the cost.
We’re painting our orange bricks red so that we seem more “collegiate,” but Anthony J. Drexel founded this school on something more than appearances and competing with the University of Pennsylvania. He wanted higher education to be affordable and accessible, and he wanted Drexel students to be better prepared for the working world than students from more traditional colleges. While the latter remains a core focus of the Drexel administration today, it seems that making a Drexel education accessible to those in the working class is no longer a priority.
If the University is to remain true to its roots, it ought to make strides toward making its education more affordable and more accessible to those who need and deserve it most, not keeping up appearances and trying to improve its US News & World Report rankings. What originally set apart Drexel University was that it was not an exclusive school. Quite the contrary, it was an inclusive institute where anyone could come in and get a quality education. If we are to remain true to those roots, perhaps the school ought to consider directing money away from its aesthetic competitions with the University of Pennsylvania and focus more on making itself accessible to people of all financial backgrounds.