The new documentary "Ivory Tower," by filmmaker Andrew Rossi, explores the growing student debt crisis, and how colleges got to a point where they're spending millions to put in country club-like facilities on campus.
The film is thought-provoking, to say the least, but we thought we'd pull out just a few takeaways from the movie:
Harvard's Influence And What It Does Right
Harvard University, the first American college, is the "source of DNA" for all colleges. It influences every single higher education institution in the country. But one thing that Harvard does that few other schools do is provide full need scholarships to anyone it deems to need financial assistance. As such, a middle class student can expect to pay more at a public university than at Harvard. Harvard is among only 1.25 percent of colleges in the nation to offer full need-based scholarships, according to the film.
Country Club Colleges
Why are there so many rock climbing walls on college campuses these days? Because when one school offers an amenity, the rest follow. So when the University of Missouri and the University of Alabama have swimming pools, others think about adding them to their campus, and to top that, some schools even have tanning beds available for students.
This is actually at the University of Missouri. It's a 28-person hot tub and a heated vortex pool in the new $50 million student recreation center on campus in Columbia.
But can you blame students for demanding those things though when they're already spending so much money to attend school? "You give momentum to 'The student is the customer' when you charge them so much money," Wesleyan University President Michael Roth says in the film.
Who Are The Swimming Pools For?
So who are the students that public colleges want to attract with country club-like amenities? "Ivory Tower" suggests it's out of state students, who pay twice as much in tuition. Out of state students have doubled in the past 20 years at public universities nationwide, according to the documentary.
ASU As A Party School
What does Arizona State University think about its reputation as a party school? "We literally laugh about it," ASU President Michael Crow says. Crow suggests part of that image is based on the fact that they live in a warm climate with palm trees and sunshine covering the campus. "The whole party school thing is just bogus," he adds.
This party in the video takes place at a luxury student complex at ASU.
The End Of The Old Cooper Union
The film spends a fair amount of time on Cooper Union, which will charge students tuition for the first time in its 150 year history this fall.
The filmmakers confront Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha about his $750,000 salary and free home. They note it's above average for a college president and close to Harvard University President Drew Faust's salary of $899,734, who manages 12,000 faculty, 21,000 students and more than $30 billion endowment. Bharucha's quick and immediate response: "She doesn't have a fraction of the problem we have," referring to Faust. "Not a fraction of the problems we have."
Cooper Union professor Peter Buckley jokes in response to Bharucha's statement, "Apparently we are the Harvard of Astor Place."
By the way, cutting Bharucha's salary in half could pay for the full annual tuition cost of at least 9 students, out of an average freshmen class consisting of roughly 200 students.
Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha
What Every Millennial Can Relate To
And finally, a Hunter College graduate Stefanie Gray, who has a master's degree and is struggling to find a job, sums up how many recent grads buried in student debt feel:
"The value of my education is priceless but the value of my education is also not $140,000 in debt. I feel bad talking about any dreams I have these days because there's all this talk that Generation Y is entitled and selfish, just for wanting the same opportunity as our parents."