"The most poignant educational scandal of the moment concerns Cooper Union, the prestigious Manhattan art and architecture school which, from its founding in 1859 up till last year, offered an excellent education for free to everyone who was admitted. The way it did this was by carefully living on the limited funds generated by its endowment. Now that can no longer be sustained, and the school announced that it will begin charging students $20,000 for tuition next fall. The reason everything had to change is that Cooper Union, like . . . well, like every other institution of higher ed in America, decided a few years back that it needed to think big and embrace change and build the brand. The first step in that process: erecting a fantastically expensive bit of trophy architecture across the street from its main building. (There was also a growing corps of administrators, and a departing president who needed to be paid close to $1.1 million, but we won’t go into that now.) Unfortunately, Cooper Union couldn’t pay for this glamorous new tower, and so it had to borrow an enormous sum, like other corporations do. The “free education” thing was collateral damage. Better to be known for “vibrant” architecture, I guess, than for some old-fashioned nonsense about uplifting the non-wealthy.
The story of Cooper Union is a typical anecdote of the age of collegiate capitalism, and it’s easy to come up with other examples of the lavish, unnecessary spending that characterizes American academia nowadays, that makes it “the best in the world.” It’s not just the showy new buildings, but the sports teams that give the alumni such a thrill, the fancy gymnasiums and elaborate food courts that everyone thinks you have to have if you want the cool kids to choose your diploma mill over all the others."It is Academy Fight Song, by Thomas Frank - find it at http://thebaffler.com/past/academy_fight_song