See good in public, private partnership
If you take the time to read about Montclair State University’s new residence hall, the Heights, you will probably find yourself green with envy. Montclair students housed in the Heights, compared to students who live in more stereotypical residence halls, live in the lap of luxury: private bathrooms, a brand new dining hall, new furniture and spacious rooms. But what really makes the Heights interesting is the fact that it was financed, developed and is minted entirely by private companies. We are usually hesitant to accept privatization on the campuses of public schools, but in the case of the Heights, things actually worked out really well.
Even though the Heights is technically a private building, run by private companies — Montclair won’t received the title to the complex until the tax-exempt bonds that financed it are fully paid, or 40 years elapses, whichever comes first — it serves the exact same function as any other average residence hall room. There are resident assistants living in the building. Students still have to access the rooms through a campus lottery system. Taking up residence in the Heights costs the same as living in any other residence hall. In short, there is virtually no difference between the Heights and your average school-built and maintained residence hall.
The case of the Heights furnishes a great example of how the private and public sectors can work together for the common good. Montclair did not have to pay to have a brand new residence hall erected for its students. Not only does this help the school in these difficult times, but it ultimately serves the students, who should always be a school’s priority. Likewise, the private companies involved in erecting and maintaining the building are making profits without interfering in any way with the lives of these students. As long as the Heights continues operating like the average residence hall, it does not seem that anything will go wrong.
We here at the University can look at the Heights as proof that public institutions and private companies do not have to always stand at odds. While there are certainly a large number of areas of education that private companies should not have a hand in, that does not mean that partnerships between the private and the public always end badly. As long as the students are the ones winning, then everything is OK.