Large corporations hold more power than ever in our society, and the influence that they exert is obvious in many arenas: over the economy, our political system and what legislation is passed, over the media and what ideas and opinions are conveyed. What is less immediately obvious is the increasing influence that large corporations have on the educational system in the United States, especially on higher education. While some notice has been paid to the reach of corporations into public K-12 schools with ventures such as Channel One, less attention has been given to the increasing influence of corporations on universities, both public and private, throughout the country.
The unprecedented influence of corporations, and corporate values, on universities has led to a number of disturbing trends that challenge the integrity of higher education in the United States. Corporations are more visible and more powerful than ever on college campuses. The governing boards of universities, as well as their trustees and regents, are increasingly the executives of large corporations. Universities are contracting out for more and more of their basic services, from cafeterias run by fast food chains and exclusive beverage contracts with Coca-Cola or Pepsi to university bookstores run by large bookstore chains such as Barnes & Noble. Such arrangements effectively shut out smaller, local companies that benefit the local economy instead of corporate interests.