The Corner

Education

Another High-Cost College Amenity with Little Value

Spending money on frills in the hopes of luring in a few more students has become part of the marketing game for many colleges and universities. One of the latest is competitive video gaming, or “esports.”

In today’s Martin Center article, Anthony Hennen takes a look at this phenomenon.

Hennen writes, “When colleges announce these programs, they sell them as low-cost and high-reward. Many colleges brag about how esports will attract sponsors and students. Esports are seen as a recruiting tool, especially for small colleges that aren’t widely known. Though hundreds of colleges now have esports teams, new programs still claim to be innovative. Esports may attract a few students who would otherwise not enroll, but it requires a big investment. Building an esports arena isn’t cheap.

Definitely not. Ohio State spent $1.6 million. UNC spent over $750,000. Even community colleges are into this. Wake Tech here in Raleigh spent $72,000. Annual program expenses add substantially more to the cost of these programs.

Schools seem to realize that spending a bundle so a few students can play video games might be regarded as a poor use of funds, and therefore tend to clam up when asked for details.

Hennen concludes, “As the traditional college-aged population declines over the next decade, competition for students will be fierce. Hundreds of colleges big and small have already established esports, either as varsity programs or as a student amenity. Arenas are going up, from state flagship campuses to community colleges, and that will continue in the future. Unless the college has a savvy development officer, donors aren’t funding it—the public is.”

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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