The National Bureau of Economic Research published the “College as Country Club” paper last week. It has gotten a lot of coverage already by IHE, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Time, the Wall Street Journal, and Freakonomics.
The paper (abstract; pdf) states, “We find that students do appear to value college attributes which we categorize as ‘consumption’ because their benefits arguably accrue only while actually enrolled.” It goes on to report, “One important implication of our analysis is that for many institutions, demand-side market pressure may not compel investment in academic quality, but rather in consumption amenities.”
This is distressing, but perhaps not surprising to many people within higher education. Another implication for this research might be marketing spend. With all these great amenities to offer students, how do schools get the word out?
It could be interesting to see if increased spending on amenities leads to an increase in spending on the marketing of those amenities. Does the marketing budget have to increase to allow a school to let prospective students know about all the new aquariums and nap pods? Or, do the amenities, there for all to see during prospective student visits, decrease marketing spend as the amenities help to sell the school?
Finally, how does marketing spend for academic improvements fit in – for things like the new physics lab, the new core curriculum, an increase in program funding or new faculty appointments?