Why aren’t students feeling the benefits of Tulane’s audacious fundraising?

Edwin Wang, Staff Writer

A fundamental pillar of Tulane’s “Only the Audacious” revamp is “building an environment to support excellence,” an ambition that requires Tulane to reevaluate its developmental priorities. Tulane is currently falling short of its vows by delaying student-focused priorities that would strategically benefit the university in favor of reciting soundbites and enacting wasteful projects.

Tulane press releases often tout a “record-setting fundraising pace,” but if these campaigns are overachieving their “audacious ambitions,” what is the justification in financially burdening students so much? 

Should Tulane’s fundraising projections prove overzealous, university leadership ought to more closely scrutinize infrastructure projects like the Commons, a dining hall whose $55 million price tag wallops those of other potentially impactful reforms like universally-provided textbooks. 

Especially as higher education approaches an unsettling reality marked by six-figure tuition rates, our university is obligated to provide tangible support that removes educational barriers and enables students to focus on pursuing their ambitions. 

While Tulanians already benefit from major newspaper access and a conditioned textbook-buyback program, Tulane must supplant initiatives that only enhance the school’s visual appeal in favor of enacting reforms that make Tulane more convenient and affordable to all students.

A university equipped with a $1.3 billion endowment whose fiscal year 2017 performance “ranked above the 95th percentile compared to peer institutions” can likely assume certain restrictive undergraduate costs for student supplies, activity fees or meal plans with the ease that students buy lunch at the LBC.

Since “Only the Audacious” has met about 75% of its fundraising goal of $1.3 billion and simple arithmetic indicates Tulane has only dedicated $300 million of current contributions for scholarships and research, Tulane evidently has enough financial flexibility to provide additional student-oriented resources.

For example, rather than mimicking universities that excessively charge students for subpar meals, Tulane should tactically utilize its fundraising prowess to reduce meal plan costs or improve food quality across its dining facilities.

For the Commons’ $55 million construction cost, how many meal plan price cuts or inexpensive organic food options could Tulane have implemented?

Though Tulane has faced numerous setbacks due to Hurricane Katrina and the Great Recession — namely a 37% hit to Tulane’s endowment — the school’s utmost duty should be providing all students with the greatest resources possible to nurture their educational, professional, social and mental well-being.

In the midst of ongoing campus debates over how best to achieve measurable progress towards accomplishing student-focused reforms, the roots of this issue clearly stem from Tulane’s historic inability to invest in its students, requiring an institutional reform that will force Tulane to reassess previous commitments. 

As opposed to leaving its students to unilaterally shoulder college burdens, Tulane must pioneer reforms that provide tangible benefits to all students in order to unite our community and quench intolerable student opportunity droughts.

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