Editorial, Opinion

STAFF EDIT: Recycling money at BU

Campus Convenience and City Convenience stores offer a slew of snacks and consumer goods at inflated prices, and BU students gladly oblige, swiping their Terrier ID card for a speedy checkout. What students may not realize is that Boston University owns both convenience stores, as well as a multitude of other income-generating enterprises that bring in cash wholly apart from students’ tuition.
As BU rakes in earnings from its outside activities, students can’t help but feel gouged. BU has every right to take advantage of the business opportunities operating in an urban environment offers ‘-‘- as long as these activities help students during their time here. BU should either lower its prices at convenience stores or pump more of its extracurricular earnings into tuition relief and dorm renovations.’
The university, through the 660 Corporation, owns both CampCo and CityCo, which are staples on BU’s campus. It owns the stores through the 660 Corporation because it would violate its own tax-exempt status to operate for-profit business directly. 660-owned stores can also be found on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus, near Boston College and in various areas of the city.
Students have raised concerns over the recent spike in prices at 660 Corp.’s outlets. Some products are as much as 35 percent more expensive in its stores than other nearby places. A product is worth whatever the consumer is willing to pay for it. And in the case of BU students, inflated prices are a small price to pay for convenience. Since there are alternatives to CampCo and CityCo in the immediate area ‘-‘- sometimes as close as across the street ‘-‘- few should complain about lack of options.
But when BU administrators claim after each tuition hike that they are doing all they can to help students, prices at convenience stores gain far more importance. When sick students have to spend 35 percent more on cold medicine at the closest option to their dorm, it’s certainly not ‘helping the students.’
BU is not an entirely tuition-dependent institution. The university owns and operates Hotel Commonwealth and the Eastern Standard restaurant in Kenmore Square, rents parking in the highly profitable Fenway area during Red Sox games and manages a broad swath of real estate from Beacon Street to the South End, just to name a few for-profit activities. Add in the commissions BU earns from the Convenience Points system at external eateries, and the administration’s options for reducing or at least stalling tuition hikes seem far less limited.
We are fine with BU making money wherever possible. In fact, we encourage it. Boston University, for its size, has a relatively small endowment, and certainly anything to offset cost should benefit its customers ‘-‘- students ‘-‘- in the long run. But the university should be upfront about its activities. If prices at CampCo need to be increased because of the economic situation, say so. Part of building a strong alumni network is being open and honest with current students about the university’s situation and future plans. Make students part of the plan, not just a source of funds.

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