- As more colleges look to expand online learning for an increasingly changing student profile, Vanderbilt University is taking a counter-cultural approach to teaching and learning delivery, announcing plans to modernize residential facilities across campus in a $600 million capital renovation project.
- Inside Philanthropy reported on a $20 million gift from its Board of Trust Chairman Bruce Evans and his wife Bridgitt that will support the new living-learning community expansion, among other things. The Evans, who manage a family foundation with a focus on innovation in the arts and education, said that the gift will help create a place where "future leaders can harness the unique, collaborative spirit on this campus to solve problems and drive innovation."
- The couple's gift follows more than $30 million in donations from board members and anonymous donors towards improving Vanderbilt's residential learning assets, which institution officials said remains a vital part of higher education. "We believe proximity matters — science, arts, medicine, the humanities, engineering, and more exist within steps of one another on our campus," officials said in a statement outlining the vision for the campus.
This project appears to envision Vanderbilt as one of the nation's premier institutions for the residential learning experience, which if designed around its programs of strength like journalism, engineering and education, and could establish the institution as a primary choice of students who can afford such education. It could also present a number of workforce development and private-partnership opportunities with companies that may be inclined to work with a campus committed to expanding space for research, laboratories and experiential learning — a modified version of the 'P4' initiatives Kent State University and others are using to expand their campus footprints.
Colleges and universities that are looking for similar regional appeal with modernized learning communities and that can afford to build facilities that give students closer access to athletics, research, activities, volunteerism and other elements that make the collegiate experience rewarding for students and encourages philanthropic connections among alumni. But they may also run the risk of attracting a homogenous group of students to these communities; predictably, affluent white students who are most able to afford the cost of residential access.
Ultimately, elite institutions may be able to offer the best of both worlds in residential and distance learning, a combination that recent studies suggest encourages greater completion rates among students and could still help campuses maintain a commitment to diverse enrollment strategies.