April 20, 2012 by Op-Ed
Everyone among the student body has noticed the recent rash of construction and incoming students. Not to mention everyone has been complaining about it. Would you guess that the two are related more closely than one might think?
The construction projects going on right now are capital intensive, like any other project, especially in the city. As of right now, Drexel has three projects running simultaneously: the URBN Center (already behind the original schedule), the LeBow Business Building (expected for 2015) and the Chestnut Street dormitories (anticipated for fall 2013). Any construction project is pricey, and in this case just in 2009 Drexel paid at least $62 million to construction-related services. The Lebow Building alone is estimated at $97 million. So where does all the money come from?
Of course, the school has budgeted this cost into its plan. But ultimately, roughly 60 percent of the school’s budget is tuition-based, according to the University’s benchmark report. The answer is simple: In order to pay for these newer, nicer buildings, Drexel must increase its revenues. To increase its revenues, Drexel must rely on increasing either tuition or the number of students attending. As Drexel has already been slammed as one of the most expensive schools in America, upping tuition drastically is pretty much out of the question. And we’ve already seen the result of the answer Drexel chose: the last two entering classes have each been the largest in Drexel history, causing crowded facilities and classrooms. But what can we do to reduce Drexel’s costs?
As discussed above, new construction (as well as demolition costs) has been a major drain on Drexel’s revenues thus far. Drexel’s yearly building maintenance cost is already very high. According to the budgeting committee of the Faculty Senate, the cost has been appraised at $15 million per year. Instead of tearing down older buildings in order to make way for better-looking ones, Drexel could save some money by simply renovating or adding on to existing spaces. In an effort to grow the reputation of the school, as well as combat some evaluations of Drexel’s campus as one of the ugliest in the nation ( The Princeton Review, for one), it seems like Drexel might be going gaga for beautiful buildings when maybe the ones we already have are just fine, if not the newest.
Renovation’s more limited scope would also have lessened the impact on classroom availability that Matheson’s destruction has caused. As the business students are without an official home, they have been forced to relocate into other schools’ buildings as well as some newly renovated classrooms in buildings never previously used by students. Classes are scheduled at almost all times in lecture halls, and classroom availability is limited. Construction lines the streets and causes traffic and pedestrian flow issues along with the unwelcome noise it creates.
Another factor that simply doesn’t make sense in the current situation of too many freshmen and too little housing is the recent addition to the Drexel “Facts and Figures” Web page, which now states that both freshmen and sophomores will be required to live on campus (starting with the entering class of 2012). Although new dorms are being developed and built, it makes little sense to put the administration in the pressure cooker over these projects by creating such an ambitious requirement this early. Once the University has been assured that the construction will be completed on time and well, then they should put such new policies in place.
Large-scale construction is only exacerbating the budget situation of the University and creating a catch-22. More students are required to raise funds for more buildings, which then require more buildings (particularly dorms) in order to keep up Drexel’s standards of education and student life. I think it’s time that we dial back construction costs and try to keep the freshman influx at normal levels.
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