New Campus Art Center Vs. Big-Time Athletics: A Study in Contrasts

Today's post is a study in contrasts at two state universities. On one hand, Rutgers University. On the other, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.

I'll predicate it all with the caveat that I'm by no means suggesting apples-to-apples comparisons here. Rather, I hope to underscore two diverging sets of priorities. (Full disclosure: I also think big-time college athletics are a detriment to the overall well-being of the general student population, so perhaps I'm not entirely objective.)

Joe Nocera's recent column in the Times, titled "At Rutgers, It's Books vs. Ballgames," is a must-read for anyone remotely concerned about the multi-billion dollar enterprise that is big-time collegiate sports. The university is now part of the esteemed Big Ten conference and is commited to competing with athletic stalwarts like Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State.

Needless to say, it's a work in process.

In the last academic year, Rutgers athletics had a deficit of more than $36 million. It's projecting a total deficit of $183 million between now and 2022. In the meantime, tuition and fees have been steadily increasing. Oh, and Kyle Flood, the football coach, is getting a $200,000 raise next year, taking his salary to $1.25 million.

Contrast that with news that the Denver-based Boettcher Foundation awarded a $175,000 grant to support the construction of the new Ent Center for the Arts at UC Colorado Springs.

The center will feature a five-venue arts complex, representing a partnership among the university, six community arts partners and three local school districts. It will house performance and exhibition spaces, including a new 750-seat main theater, a new 250-seat recital hall, the Galleries of Contemporary Art, the university’s Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theatre and the Osborne Theatre.

Which of the two investments provides a greater net value to the respective university population as a whole?

While you argue amongst yourselves, I'd also like to add that Colorado Springs certainly has the added benefit of having the Boettcher Foundation in its corner. The foundation is a tireless supporter of education in the state, awarding full four-year, in-state scholarships to the state’s top high school seniors and by providing capital grants to Colorado nonprofits.

As for Rutgers, the university library had its budget cut by $500,000. Sorry kids. Perhaps the Boettcher Foundation—or maybe even a NJ-based foundation—has a little spare change rattling around in the sofas?