Public colleges can't do it all, at least not when the economy is weak.
More public colleges are farming out the non-educational aspects of their campus operations -- things like parking enforcement and dorm construction -- to private companies, the the Wall Street Journal reports.
In just the latest example, the WSJ notes, Ohio State University is looking for one or more private investors to lease its parking system of more than 35,000 spaces, a move that could raise as much as $375 million for the school, but has students worried about a possible crackdown on violations.
Other schools have hired private developers to build dorms and restore campus buildings. And officials at OSU are thinking of privatizing the golf course and the small airport that sit on campus grounds, according to the WSJ.
Outsourcing these non-essential services to private companies indicates how tight money is many states, thanks to a weak economy in which housing values are low, consumers aren't spending or earning much and tax revenues aren't what they once were.
In an environment like this, public schools at every level are hurting -- from colleges that are slashing programs, shedding faculty and cranking up tuition prices to the local high schools selling ad space on their buses and lockers.
Attendance rates have gone up at public colleges since the onset of the recession, upping the pressure on schools to provide services and amenities for increasing numbers of students in spite of falling revenues.
Academia isn't the only place where reduced state budgets are causing waves of pain. In many towns, emergency services have been forced to scale back, with some police forces and fire departments now lacking the resources to respond to every call. And a number of communities have shut off their streetlights to save money, even though the darker streets might be contributing to a rise in local crime.
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