Phillip McCausland: Pricing acres

There is a strong disconnect between founder Russell Conwell’s vision and that  of the current administration. Temple founder Russell Conwell often gave the now-famed “Acres of Diamonds” speech. The speech told of a man who

There is a strong disconnect between founder Russell Conwell’s vision and that  of the current administration.

Temple founder Russell Conwell often gave the now-famed “Acres of Diamonds” speech. The speech told of a man who gave up unknown riches in his own land to greedily travel abroad to find it elsewhere. Meanwhile, the new owner of the land found a large diamond mine in his new acquisition, and the original owner died penniless. His speech was meant to encourage his listeners to foster the unknown “diamonds” they had, rather than seek riches elsewhere.
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Temple was founded upon this principle, yet our administration no longer seems to be interested in fostering the “hidden gems” of this school. Instead, it emphasizes expansion, increasing assets and, ultimately, its own interests – one of which does not seem to be students.

The administration should know the wise words of our founder by heart, but Temple’s mission to give an education to those who would not otherwise be able to afford one has ironically become as endangered as the Northern Spotted Owl.

Instead, it seems a plan for privatization has taken precedence. In her Faculty Herald article “The Plan to Privatize Temple,” Dr. Marina Angel, a law professor, states that Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Anthony Wagner told her “there had been widespread ‘transparent’ discussion of privatization for the four years since he arrived at Temple in 2007.”

Temple could lose $82,000,000 next year because of the state budget cuts, which could possibly lead to a 42 percent increase in tuition – approximately $5,000 – in the 2011-12 academic year.

An uninformed student body might blame Gov. Tom Corbett, who is not innocent and no favorite of this writer. But students must also realize that plans for privatization have been discussed for four years. For some reason, however, the administration has not felt as though students deserve to be involved in the discussion.

Andrew Tubbs, a junior communications major, said he is angered by this possible tuition increase.

“My parents are hardworking individuals but can’t afford to pay for my education. I work right now so that I can afford my own living expenses, and that’s enough weight as a student,” Tubbs said.

“I already look forward to a great deal of debt when I get out of school, and this tuition increase would be a huge financial burden,” he added. “I mean, in-state tuition is one of the reasons I came here.”

Temple combines two items that most prospective college students seek: a great education at an equally great price. This kind of rise in tuition will only make other schools more attractive, thus Temple will lose many splendid students who can find affordable education elsewhere.

I have already begun to hear the words “transfer” and “drop out” because of the current tuition hike. Students do not want to leave, but some do not have a choice.

Privatization would also affect Temple elsewhere – its demographics. No longer does Temple reflect the rich diversity of Philadelphia.

Approximately 57 percent of Temple students are white compared to 15 percent black, 10 percent Asian and 3.4 percent Hispanic students make up Temple “diversity.” Temple administration is calling this loss of diversity a mere “demographic shift,” said Hillel Hoffmann, the assistant director of news communications.

Angel put it eloquently in an article she wrote for the law school’s newsletter.

“If we go to one level of tuition, we would lose more of our disadvantaged students of ability whose presence makes Temple’s diversity attractive to our upper middle class students,” Angel wrote. “As a result, we would lose our appeal to many of the more affluent students who chose to come to Temple believing it is diverse. ”

The administration does not seem to realize the great opportunity it has. Students interact daily with other races, cultures and ethnicities making daily interactions an educational experience. With this simple rise in tuition, the magic that this campus holds will disappear and will likely be populated by wealthy suburban students. After full privatization, this school could resemble any other affluent private university. Conwell would surely roll over in his grave.

Temple was not founded upon profit margins. It was founded upon creating educational opportunities for students based upon their academic ability rather than their ability to pay. The student body is no longer the central feature of Temple, but rather, just another asset to be used and liquidated as the administration sees fit.

Though Temple’s foundation is clear, its future is murky at best. The only thing students can be sure of is that for our dreams to come to fruition, we will have to pay.

Phillip McCausland can be reached at

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