Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel and several others broke ground on the second phase of the University Edge housing complex Saturday.
Tressel laid out an ambitious plan in April to give campus a facelift, and — outside of the headaches commuters have been experiencing due to construction along Wick and Lincoln Avenues — University Edge is the first tangible thing to come from that plan.
It’s been a success — at least from a business standpoint. The first 162-bed unit is filled up, and phase two will add another 220-bed unit. It will also include the construction of a two-story campus bookstore complete with a cafe and convenient store.
Campuses across the country are in an arms race to build new and shiny amenities in an attempt to attract new students. If University Edge is successful in that regard — and it seems like it will be — YSU will have brought new students in without spending a dime. While they leased the land, Hallmark Campus Communities will construct the buildings.
However, it’s worth noting that fancy apartments cater to a certain class of students. Not everyone can afford the rents at University Edge or the University Courtyard apartments or the Flats at Wick. This is a campus where 87 percent of students receive some form of financial aid.
And it’s by design that developments like this don’t have the average YSU student in mind. Tressel wants to extend the university’s footprint beyond students who attended local high schools — those who chose to attend YSU primarily, because it’s cheap and close to home.
Ideally, this will increase enrollment which in turn will increase revenue. And while fancy apartments are nice, the university needs to make sure the additional revenue they generate is invested in things from which all students can benefit.
This could be better support services for students, but also better compensation for faculty. If fancy apartments and cool climbing walls are what make a student choose YSU over another campus, they decided to go to college in the first place to get an education. That is impossible without the educators themselves.
At YSU, the educators — both full and part-time — haven’t always received the support they deserve, both by necessity and by choice.
It’s OK to get excited about new developments like University Edge. We at The Jambar believe the bookstore will be a nice addition to Fifth Avenue.
But let’s not lose sight of what really makes YSU a great university — it’s not the amenities; it’s the faculty.
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