Check Out Kansas’s New Kick-Ass, $12M Basketball Dorm and Forget Where All that Money Could Have Gone

By Patrick Sauer

Last May, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback approved a four percent, $30.7 million cut to the state’s higher-education budget for the 2017 fiscal year. The state faces another potential higher-ed slashing of $56.4 million over the next two years. It’s part of a severe budgetary crisis across the country, which, as always, affects the college students most in need of assistance, according to Amy Ellen Duke-Benfield, a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

“One of the principal barriers to more students pursuing and completing college is the lack of sufficient financial aid and family income,” she told VICE Sports. “Over the last three decades, college tuition and fees have increased nearly four times faster than median income and four and a half times faster than inflation. The rapid increase in college prices, along with student aid funding that has not kept up, has resulted in sizable unmet need. High levels of unmet need have forced students—particularly low- and middle-income students—to borrow more, work more hours, take fewer courses, or in some cases, drop out altogether.”

The situation is particularly dire in Kansas, where aggressive tax cuts passed by Brownback and the Republican-majority State Legislature have decimated the budget.

On Tuesday, posted an online tour of the basketball team’s new home, allowing the Jayhawk faithful to rawk, chawk, or at least gawk at McCarthy Hall, the $12 million dorm for today’s discerning student-athlete (and the 17 students who will never pay for an ounce of weed again). It’s got everything a young scholar needs: a basketball court in the basement, a “media center” with those nice-ass leather seats the fancy new movie theaters have, retrofitted rooms for tall dudes that rival an upscale chain hotel, a game room, outdoor patio with fireplace and TVs, and a barber shop. Nothing says buckling down for that Econ final like a quick flat-top fade! Oh, and naturally, as these are valuable bodies, nothing but the best meals on hand. McCarthy’s dining facility will never serve mystery meat on toast. As for Kansas kids trying to study on an empty stomach…

Again, Duke-Benfield: “According to the Kansas Food Bank, more than 14% of Kansans are food insecure, meaning that at times, these individuals or households lack access to enough adequately healthy food for an active, healthy lifestyle. In the midst of greater pressures on low- and middle-income students to come up with thousands of dollars that they don’t have to cover college tuition and living expenses, with students living in cars and frequenting the school or community food pantry, universities are pouring millions of dollars into luxurious dorms at places like KU—and publicizing it with pride.”

The luxury digs tour—a dormitory it ain’t—is hosted by sophomore point guard Devonte’ Graham and junior forward Landen Lucas, who both seem tickled at their good fortune. (“It’s nice, and social, and fun!” Lucas exclaims.) Who can blame them? The place looks fantastic, airy and bright, nothing like the cramped cigarette-smoke-stained walls that held in the surplus Army bunk beds in Marquette University’s McCormick Hall circa 1989. It’s not like the players haven’t earned it, and they certainly aren’t getting a slice of the $100 million pie the school is baking. (Which will be delicious—it is the Midwest after all.)

The video makes it abundantly clear that McCarthy Hall was all privately funded, because of course it was. Big-ticket boosters ponying up so they can pound bottles of Free State at the outdoor patio pre-game may, in theory, be all on the up-and-up, but would $12 million ever be spent, publicly or privately, for kids to attend regular college? It would not.
“This is a simple story of misplaced priorities,” Duke-Benfield said. “Now if only the athletic department and its boosters would make a similarly sized donation to the KU Food Pantry, the Campus Cupboard, and emergency housing for homeless students.”

The pool table kicks ass, though.

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