Colleges short of cash: Sell the campus?

By: | March 23, 2021

One thing the pandemic has demonstrated is that many businesses can function reasonably well without their employees leaving home. Big corporate skyscrapers or even massive college campuses maybe are not needed. While much of the collegiate experience involves social interaction that usually requires some degree of physical closeness between members of the university community, many colleges have had vast amounts of essentially deserted classroom, administrative office and housing space for almost a year without perishing.

Yet a combination of falling enrollments and special Covid-19-related expenses have put most campuses into weakened financial condition. What to do? According to news reports, the University of Akron has decided it might sell up to one million square feet of the eight million it owns, the equivalent of one pretty big skyscraper.

Like at most state universities, in the late 20th century enrollments grew at Akron, and in the early years of this century the school typically had more than 25,000 students on campus. An expansionist president, Luis Proenza, went on a building spree, spending hundreds of millions of largely borrowed dollars on new classroom facilities, labs, and, most controversially, an expensive, nice football stadium.

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