As I am sure most of you are aware, Virginia Tech recently announced that it is creating a 1 billion dollar innovation campus in Northern Virginia in conjunction with Amazon’s second HQ (article 1, article 2). Personally, I have mixed feelings on the matter and a discussion with some graduate students friends raised some interesting points.
To begin, anything that is going cost one billion dollars immediately raises questions about funding. The Roanoke Times identifies that Virginia Tech and the State of Virginia are bringing 250 million forward, each, and didn’t disclose where the additional 500 million will come from. The article goes on to say “The school said in its announcement that private philanthropy, industry partners and other revenue streams through sharing spaces will fund the project.” If this is true, and VT gets a new one billion campus for 250 million privately funded dollars it seems like a pretty decent deal – though I guess it largely depends on what percent of the campus is higher education driven and what percentage is corporate/“sharing spaces”. For me, questions remain how this type of campus will inevitably impact the cost of attendance at Virginia Tech both in the immediate and distance future.
Generally, I think the connection with Amazon’s HQ2 will largely be seen as a benefit. It allows for the seamless creation of a student to company pipeline with one of the largest corporations in the world, but in doing so it further blurs the lines between higher education and corporate America. I think even without the new Amazon HQ2 the idea of an innovation campus is beneficial and well received, but there has been speculation that the State of Virginia was unlikely to invest in Techs initiative without the HQ2 centers close proximity. Obviously, there are and will continue to be connections between higher education and industry, but how much impact corporate decisions should have on higher education’s development remains to be seen.