Phi Beta Cons

Lazy Rivers: More Scenes from the Recreation-Industrial Complex

We’ve heard about the climbing walls, fancy gyms, and the multi-million dollar student unions boasted by colleges and universities hoping to lure prospective students. Now, it appears that the latest mania in the recreation-industrial complex is more aquatic in nature: a growing number of universities are building lazy rivers and water slides for their students. 

A 2013 study from the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (now called Leaders in College Recreation) indicates that 92 schools have a combined $1.7 billion of recreation-related capital projects in the works. 

It’s not easy being the killjoy, pointing out that such lavish expenditures have nothing to do with enhancing academics. If I were a student or a professor at one of the schools offering such amenities, would I make a pother? Of course not. 

But it is worth asking: Why is this phenomenon emerging in higher education? What are its underlying causes? Is this “malinvestment” on the part of universities? When will this trend end? Or is it here to stay?

Jesse SaffronJesse Saffron is a writer and editor for the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy, a North Carolina-based think tank dedicated to improving higher education in the Tar ...

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