Drexel University: what is our money going to? | The Triangle

Drexel University: what is our money going to?

Photo by Evie Touring | The Triangle

It’s well-known among students that Drexel is not, so to speak, the best school in the world. “The Drexel shaft” has been a running joke for longer than I’ve been here, and it is hard to look good when The University of Pennsylvania is right across the street. CollegeCalc.org lists Drexel University at #8 on its list of most expensive schools in Pennsylvania, with an academic rating of 76 — the only school below the mid-eighties until Ursinus College down at #14. (UPenn, of course, sits comfortably as the #1 most expensive school in PA, and with an academic rating of 96.) Drexel stands as a bit of an outlier, a school that is very expensive yet not particularly great.

So what is all that money going to?

We know a lot of departments are understaffed. Take the floundering Engineering Technology department (recently rebranded as the Department of Engineering, Leadership, and Society), who had a teacher, Dr. Fanaei, leave suddenly late last year for a job at a school in Boston. The department didn’t have enough professors to cover all of his classes, so he still taught, commuting all the way to Philadelphia.

Residence halls have been seeing some updates, to be fair, but these fixes are long past due. Myers Hall was finally cordoned off this past fall, a full five years after it was originally planned to be demolished. Kelly Hall is also currently closed, getting its first renovations since it opened in 1967.

The thing is, I honestly believe that Drexel is doing a pretty good job, at least in terms of student value. Colleges need to make money. We all have our opinions of President Fry and his policies, but what’s hard to argue with is his success as a businessman. In 2021, Drexel’s endowment hit $1 billion for the first time, which is a good thing. Endowments are not bank accounts, they have specific things they can be used for, and it’s at least heartening to know that the money going in isn’t just vanishing. 

Comparing us to UPenn isn’t fair either. They’re a lot larger and a whole lot older than we are, and that makes a serious difference in academia, where reputation is everything.

If criticism is to be leveled at Drexel’s spending policy, it needs to look to the future. What is Drexel’s long-term plan, just more real estate development? How does Drexel’s reputation hold up when gentrification is becoming an increasingly hotbed issue? How long until the next incoming class doesn’t fit in the current dorms? How does Drexel truly, seriously, intend to increase academic standards?

Drexel’s latest strategic plan, “Drexel 2030,” lists some of these concerns as focus points for the university to address going forward, and describes specific actions to be taken to improve them.

The official strategic plan timeline only goes up to August of 2022. Either the plan is doing nothing or the administration has chosen not to inform us of what it has achieved.

Someday soon, Drexel will have to reckon with its overpriced, underperforming academics. Either the University will choose to invest in serious academic overhauls, or it will stagnate, and become another one of those schools where wealthy families send their C-average students. Regardless, I will not be here to see it. I only hope the correct choice is made.