Things To Act
Thursday, February 05, 2004
TwoMileGate II
Well, my prediction of angry letters was almost fulfilled, as today featured a whopping two articles and four editorials on the new boundary issue. The editorials, thanks to typical Newsnet inefficiency, are not online, but two of them are angry indeed. One, by a student reporter, simply parrots the administration line instead of asking the obvious questions ("Will rental prices go up? The housing office says no"). The last, from the infamous Econ-challenged Gary Briggs, gives the closest thing to a coherent university justification for the change, including:

*The new boundaries will help achieve BYU's off-campus housing environment goals.
*98% of single students live close to campus; far complexes have a small percentage of BYU students. "The university does not want to--nor can it--impose control over housing for all of the single young adults in Utah Valley."
*A reference to benefiting "academically and socially, as [students] are able to play an important role in helping to build our campus community."

Oops. That wasn't a justification after all, other then "we want to." Of course, as BYU is a private university, it can indeed do what it wants to, but everyone else can be puzzled at the logic. Despite the official spin, this still looks like either A) a major windfall to landlords close to campus, with the brunt of the cost being borne by students or, B) if the administration really intends to impose price controls as a condition of BYU approval (and how well will that really work?) a bizarre attempt at social engineering. I suppose one could consider the BYU itself to be a bizarre attempt at social engineering, but it makes more sense to me for the university to buy the housing directly if it wants to extend its control that far. But then, I tend to prefer market solutions, particularly when there doesn't seem to be a 'problem' to justify a change (and if the problem really is that it isn't cost-effective to monitor complexes far away from BYU, there's an obvious market solution--charge each complex a fee equal to the administrative costs (or some fraction thereof), thus inducing those complexes who don't want BYU approval that badly to drop out of the program, while those who will house a significant number of students will pay the administrative costs themselves. This could, of course, result in slightly higher rent, but then, it should also result in slightly lower tuition. Aren't property rights wonderful?).

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