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US universities: buying their way to the top

As both the domestic and the global race for top students tighten amongst US universities, heaps of money is being poured into university expansion and renovation. College Planning and Management, a trade magazine that produces an annual College Construction Report, reports that US colleges and universities increased their construction spending 260% since 1997, injecting 15 billion dollars into campus building in 2006 alone. From University of Pennsylvania, to MIT, to Harvard, campuses across the country are aiming to up their profiles by building better laboratories, student housing and recreational space. Even public state institutions such as the University of Connecticut and the Massachusetts state universities are dishing out cash to beautify their campuses.

The campus construction craze in the US is clearly reflective of the intense competition for students as well as increasing university enrollment rates. Though often criticized as excessive and superficial, many of the university enhancements are thought to bring community benefits as well: modern research labs may attract better international faculty and grant money to the region and up-scale recreational facilities such as sports fields may be community contributions. Nonetheless, US university tuition fees have skyrocketed over the past decade, somewhat reflective of the university drive to invest more capital into an attractive and innovative campus.

With new global competitors emerging as higher education hubs, US universities are using their purchasing power to stay ahead as the leading destination of foreign study.

2007 College Construction Report