Yeshiva University has been recently embroiled in a controversy surrounding the existence of an LGBTQ club. For a while, all clubs had been suspended, and students had to resort to mundane things like going to class, studying for exams, and writing papers. This whole experience got me thinking about how colleges as a whole can learn from this experience. And no, it’s not about what clubs should be allowed to exist.

Because, in fact, no university-funded clubs should exist on campus. You see, the major issue that colleges face today is a financial one. Tuition has spiraled out of control, and students are saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt because they took out loans for an education that will often never come close to helping them repay it. 

Now, a common refrain among reformists is to fight back against the administrative costs that have ballooned over the years. The rise of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion departments are, of course, one major factor, but there has been an endless parade of mostly useless administrators ever since I was in college, and probably before that as well. But in the last ten years, it has gotten well out-of-hand. In 2021, The New York Times estimated that as much as 30% of college tuition goes to administrators. That’s equal to the percentage paid to the professors. And sure, trimming down administrative costs would be a decent start, but that does not really get to the heart of the economic problem: supply and demand.

Colleges do not operate as an educational provider anymore. They are now an experiences provider. The “College Experience” is what is being sold to prospective students. It’s football on Saturdays, frat parties, clubs, dorms, college towns, and rush week. It’s all the things movies romanticize about the college experience, and all the things that exist to entice high school seniors. In other words: It’s fun. Very few high school students picture the college experience and spend much time thinking about classrooms, libraries, and homework. They think about the other stuff. 

And that is the problem. Colleges are increasingly spending time and money improving their “experiences,” and that’s what is driving up costs - not because the costs of updating recreational facilities and providing extracurricular activities are so high (they are, but that’s not the problem), but because it increases the demand. “Students” who have no business in college in the first place take out loans of hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to pay for four years of fun.

The solution is to cut the fun. Yes, I know, that would drastically change the fundamental college experience that currently exists. And that’s the point. Reducing the fun aspect of college would deter all those who are looking for an experience - and not an education - from going. They would not take out loans they cannot repay. The only students enrolled in a university would be those with career aspirations - because otherwise, what’s the point?

And yes, I am including sports as well. College athletics, while they are often huge money-makers for universities, are part of the problem. Football and basketball especially are a major part of the college experience, and their elimination would reduce the demand to attend the universities. What would happen to these athletes? Here’s a novel idea: Pay them. Professional leagues will have to develop more robust feeder leagues, and the athletes could get paid. In fact, college athletics basically allow for that now anyway, so the leap would not be that far. Remove the fun, reduce the cost.

If we are to enter a world where colleges are to reduce costs, they have to be willing to go back to being a place where their primary - nay, exclusive - purpose is education. Yeshiva University may have had to temporarily halt clubs for ideological reasons, but they may have accidentally stumbled upon a way to fix the greatest problem facing colleges today in the process. 

Izzo Zwiren is the host of The Jewish Living Podcast, where he and his guests delve into any and all areas of Orthodox Judaism.