College woos with plush accessories

by Megh Duwadi | 10/31/01 6:00am

Massage sessions, on-campus beach volleyball courts and free cable television are perks that many of today's college students receive automatically upon matriculation.

These modern-day amenities appear downright luxurious when compared with the more austere book-focused collegiate experience of the past.

Funding for these and similar expenditures has soared among U.S. universities in recent years, as administrators seek to attain a balance between their academic and social objectives.

Across the nation, colleges and universities are building multimillion-dollar residence halls that include both living and study spaces, such as Dartmouth's own McCulloch Hall, to ease the transition to an environment and lifestyle very different from living at home and attending high school.

"Dartmouth is definitely increasing expenditures for student activities and services," according to College Treasurer Win Johnson.

Johnson said increases in per-student spending this year include a boosted budget for Safety and Security, greater allocations for the Programming Board, longer hours for the Collis Student Center and the added cost of the new kosher/halal dining facility.

He said on average, the College has allocated $3 million in additional funds per year to pay for improvements like these in student services.

The College places such high priority on enhancements such as providing new residence halls and non-academic, student-controlled spaces because the community has routinely voiced concern to the administration, saying that existing facilities are not up to par.

"Both

academic and student life expenditures are being considered [equally]," Johnson said. "The student experience is not just [either] academics or services."

He added that student services "make the lives and experiences of students who are and will be here better."

Although the nation's slumping economy has led to a decline in the College's endowment, Johnson remained optimistic about the future of spending on students, explaining that the economic downturn "hasn't caused us to cut back."

But he added, "It's making accomplishing the range of things we want to do a more challenging prospect ... everything's contingent upon funding."

In response to Dartmouth's increased efforts to promote student services, Spanish Language Professor Elizabeth Chamberlain said, "I think it's a great idea. There needs to be a balance of spending between academics and social options."

Chamberlain also expressed concern about the current housing crunch.

"It's absolutely fundamental to look into new housing options," she said.

Beau Roysden '04 stressed the importance of Dartmouth's commitment to undergraduate experience as a chief interest.

"I think that the first priority should be having professors teach all classes," he said, reflecting the opinion that academic pursuits should be funded before social options.

Roysden, a member of COSO, also commented on the funds perennially left untouched by campus groups.

"Student organizations should make an effort to get all the funds that are

available," he said. "We should get really good pop events, and

interesting speakers and Hop performances."

The definition of "student services" varies from college to college, hindering efforts to compare how different schools are allocating funds to meet the needs of their undergraduates.

But in rankings published by U.S. News and World Report, Dartmouth ranked 11th under "financial resources" for 2002.

To help keep track of Dartmouth's finances, the College recently purchased a cost-analysis system that separates undergraduate expenses from those of graduate students. This will allow analysts to calculate more accurately the full cost of a Dartmouth education.

Johnson predicted that this system would be implemented in the near future, in part to aid an ongoing study conducted by the National Cost Council on Higher Education.

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