Indiana Daily Student

Building for the future

WE SAY: Construction worth cost so far

Why did we have to spend so much time trying to find scholarships? Why did we have to go through the horror that is the Free Application For Student Aid, more commonly known as FAFSA? Why are so many of us going to end up debt-laden when we finally get out of school? Why does college cost so much?\nAlas, few students can completely ignore this question, but it now seems that some voices have emerged with something of an answer. \nRecently, Andrea Neal ran a column in the Indianapolis Star suggesting that it was nonstop construction at universities throughout Indiana that was eating up so many education dollars and thus, driving up the costs of a college degree. \nMeanwhile, the Chronicle of Higher Education reported that several legislatures around the country have tightened the grip on university finances in response to the housing-market crunch and an impending fiscal crisis. However, universities seem to be continuing with their construction plans regardless. Three public universities in Arizona have actually used the housing crunch to argue for their construction plan by suggesting that such an investment could create jobs. \nThe Arizona plan involves a debt-service plan that delays payment for the construction plan well into the future and puts a great deal of the burden on the state. Such debt financing is exactly the practice that Neal attacks within Indiana.\nIt is suggested that by buying now and paying later, public universities (and the state legislature) lack an incentive to stop spending. In theory, debt financing spreads the costs out over time thus minimizing the costs to all those involved. In actuality, if too much debt piles up, the universities and the states that support them could end up with a different kind of fiscal crisis later. \nFor now, however, we don’t necessarily believe that the current campus construction plans at IU represent this kind of problem. \nTake, for instance, the new $203 million plan to construct six new major facilities on campus. Such a plan may seem expensive, and ascertaining the true value these new buildings would provide for the campus is admittedly tricky. Still, many of the projects seem well worth the effort. A new $47 million international studies building would house many of the language programs IU is known for and would help us build on our reputation as one of the most internationally focused universities in the country. A $44 million state-of-the-art music-practice facility would only enhance the prestige of the Jacobs School of music and would help it attract even more of the best students in the world. \nOf all these programs, so far only one (an $80 million project to rebuild Ashton Residence Center) would require approval by the Indiana General Assembly because of its debt financing. \nCritics like Neal, who argue that the methods of the Indiana General Assembly for appropriating funds for higher education are flawed, make plenty of good points. \nSo far, though, the excesses they fear do not seem to be occurring at IU. The projects here seem well worth the investment.

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