Friday, March 4, 2011

Xavier at 30

The news this week that Xavier University's annual tuition has topped $30,000 hardly comes at a surprise.  This pot-o-tea has been starting to boil for several years.  Back before 2005, when the University unceremoniously sold WVXU and kicked a bunch of us to the curb, there had been rumors that the "then-new" President Fr. Graham (oh, how I miss Fr. Hoff) wanted Xavier to be the "Georgetown of the Midwest."  Of course, I've never had the chance to sit in on an XU boardmeeting, so this information came second hand through a reliable source, but Fr. Graham and the board wanted so badly to elevate Xavier's status as "the elite" private school of the heartland.   And I'm not talking academics.  They quietly wanted, back then, tuition to be around $30-K (and now, I'm sure, they're target is $40-K plus) because we all know: "the higher the tuition, the better the school."  Ask Notre Dame.   Anyway, they knew there'd be criticsm, so they've been ratcheting up the tuition s-l-o-w-l-y, all the while buying property, tearing down old neighborhoods and building shiney new buildings.   No skin off my nose, of two diploma's are safely tucked away in the desk drawer.
The problem, to me, has been a gradual divorce from the people of Cincinnati--the same people who built up the school in the first place.  When I went there, Xavier was mostly a commuter school...most students lived elsewhere in town and drove to their classes.  I never thought to ask my parents to allow me to dorm there.  I had a bedroom and three squares at home with the folks in Western Hills.  Today though, commuters, if there are any left, are a dying breed at X.  Activities and events are all centered around "Xavier Life," that is, the life of an on-campus resident.  Even off-campus living is discouraged.  Of course, Xavier makes a tidy little profit selling their half-dorms for $4000 a year (meals extra), but I digress. 
I simply get the feeling that Xavier isn't a whole lot interested in recruiting the local kids.  Oh, sure, if you have the tuition, you're welcome, but even a decade ago, Xavier noticibly ramped up its national and even international recruitment.  I know because I was an adjunct professor at the time.  "The best of the best from around the world" the expense of the local student.  (Of course, the local alumni are contiuously badgered about donations, but I, again, digress.)
I sure someone in some previous boardmeeting said "we either grow or die."  I get that.  As much as I like Mt. St. Joe and Thomas More, they are still basically commuter schools and their growth has pretty much stayed the same.  I'm sure the Board didn't want that to happen.  Think BIG became the mantra.  And with the growth of Xavier's sports--particularly basketball--the eyes of the nation have at least glanced at the "little school on Victory Parkway."
But the "little school" is fading away and, like the pretty girlfriend, Xavier is telling Cincinnatians; "I want to go out with someone else--let's just be friends."  I'm not sure what was so dramatically wrong about being little old Xavier and I certainly find little to be proud of when they bulldoze a street of quaint houses for another dorm or for the "Father Hoff Academic Quad" (which is actually shaped like an ellipse.)  The bigger one becomes, the less one feels the sense of "family."  I guess, had I been born twenty years earlier, I'd be sporting a Bearcat sweatshirt on dress down day these days.   $30,000? whew!   
As the economy continues to falter, I hope it doesn't back-fire on them (I can no longer, in good faith, use the term "us" when talking about my alma matre.)

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