Mary Hopkins
There are many concerns about rising costs of higher education in Missouri. These concerns are warranted; a USA Today article that was published earlier this year found that the average cost of attending college in-state has grown 35 percent in the past five years. According to a study by the College Board, the average tuition and fees at public colleges rose 8.3 percent last year alone. Everyone knows that higher education continues getting more expensive, but the question that really needs to be addressed is: What are students these days paying for?

Take, for example, the Tiger Grotto at Mizzou. It was part of a $50 million recreation center that opened in 2005, paid for by an extra $75-per-semester fee for every student taking more than six credit hours, regardless of usage. The Grotto features palm trees, a heated spa, a lazy river, and an oversized big screen TV, all of which caught the attention of Sports Illustrated in 2005 and won Mizzou the title of Best Rec Center in the Country. For additional charges, students can also sip smoothies poolside at the outdoor Truman Pond or, since 2006, enjoy services like facials and manicures (even teeth whitening and tanning). According to the MizzouRec website, "the Grotto will transform your dullest day into a vacation," and they proudly promote its "resort quality facilities." It sounds like Missouri students are paying for a nine-month stay at a Sandals Resort instead of for a top-flight education.

Projects like Tiger Grotto show just how extravagant modern colleges and universities have become. Addressing the rising cost of higher education should perhaps begin with a reassessment of what purpose a university should serve, and whether that purpose is best achieved with flat screen TVs and spa days. Perhaps more funding for the classrooms and less funding for facilities that house smoothie-fueled tanning sessions would solve a few problems that face Missouri's higher education system. Cutting projects like Tiger Grotto, which drive up student fees, would help keep costs manageable for students as state funding decreases. This whole process would help move higher education in Missouri closer to a model where students pay the true cost of attending college.

About the Author

Mary Hopkins