By THE BLUE & GRAY PRESS EDITORIAL BOARD
The Blue & Gray Press reported last week that current on-campus construction projects are on track to be completed on schedule. The article also discussed some of the features of the new buildings, which are exciting and will surely be welcomed by future classes.
Additionally, the article noted that the university’s next project – a $32 million addition to the Jepson Science Center approved at the November Board of Visitors meeting – may be delayed at this time due to higher education cuts in the Commonwealth of Virginia’s budget. Virginia’s budget shortfall resulted in large cuts in funding for public higher education institutions.
The University of Mary Washington has seen a tremendous amount of renovation in recent years, which has certainly had benefits on the school. The Information and Technology Convergence Center is an amazing and unique area where modern technology can be harnessed and applied in new and innovative ways. Students have embraced this building, and it is an addition to our campus that is surely attractive to prospective students.
The plans for the new University Center sound exciting as well, providing students with a central location to study and interact. It will likely become a staple on campus once completed.
However, these projects have not come without their costs. While most people note the noise as a nuisance, there are truly more problematic issues that continued construction projects bring to the university.
Any student in the College of Business or psychology department will surely attest to the frustration they have felt in not having a building they can call their department’s home. These students have been squeezed into the annexes or any spare classrooms in Monroe or the ITCC. Many students that are far into their disciplines share the sentiment that having classes, professors and fellow majors in a single place is a quality that is unique and great about this university.
Most students have buildings where they feel at home in their academic studies. It is comforting to have place that feels like a part of one’s academic journey, yet business and psychology students have been shoved around and placed wherever there is spare space. It’s not a nurturing system of learning, and it is an issue that is too easily overlooked.
Additionally, the actual cost of construction is something that every person on campus is feeling. Construction projects are paid by state bonds, but, as our paper reported in 2013, students pay a debt service fee as part of their tuition that has been steadily rising each year with the additional construction projects.
While this is not unusual at universities, it is something that needs to be noted given the current environment in which higher education exists. The Virginia government has cut higher education funding, and student debt is totaling toward $1.2 trillion throughout the nation.
This University cannot afford to be investing its budget into construction projects when more and more students are graduating with debts that far outweigh the value of their degrees. The University should be investing in academics by providing students with more opportunities to expand their knowledge.
For example, the University should invest in student research by helping promising students pay for the expenses that accompany extensive and noteworthy projects. The University should assist in providing students transportation on the VRE to Washington, DC or other nearby locations of Northern Virginia where so many students have gained internships but have been saddled with enormous transportation costs. The University should work on instituting a system of textbook sharing that lessens the insane costs of textbooks that can strap a student’s budget for the entire semester. The University must focus on improving the conditions of all the residence halls before building onto a building that is one of the campus’ most up-to-date.
This University provides a valuable education thanks to the unparalleled faculty and the high standard of academic achievement, but the four years of hard work so many students are putting into college too often becomes pointless when students leave school and are unable to develop a career due to their thousands of dollars in debt.
The University needs to use its funds more wisely. We are at a point in time where this University needs to be investing in its students and their education. The purpose of this school is to foster academic and personal integrity, ambition and achievement in its students. It is time that we stop focusing so heavily on gaining new students and start paying greater attention to the students who are here.