I have no illusions about my MA program's relatively open admissions policy. Academic quality and networking potential nonwithstanding. If you're willing to pay, they'll take you. (Of course, once you're in, if you want to graduate with more than a gentleman's
B+, you're going to have to work your butt off. At least on the grad school level, NYU is, in the words of an MHC classmate from Japan who characterized American colleges and universities thusly: "Easy to get into, hard to get out of.")
Seems, however, that NYU is good at soaking more than just its run-of-the-mill students for every last penny. As per the New York Times feature
When John Sexton, the president of New York University, first met Omar Saif Ghobash, an investor trying to entice him to open a branch campus in the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Sexton was not sure what to make of the proposal — so he asked for a $50 million gift.
“It’s like earnest money: if you’re a $50 million donor, I’ll take you seriously,” Mr. Sexton said. “It’s a way to test their bona fides.” In the end, the money materialized from the government of Abu Dhabi, one of the seven emirates.
And if you ain't gonna pony up, NYU doesn't want to know you:
Three years ago, Mr. Ghobash, the Oxford-educated investor from the United Arab Emirates, heard a presentation by a private company, American Higher Education Inc., trying to broker a partnership between Kuwait and an American university.
Mr. Ghobash, wanting to bring liberal arts to his country, hired the company to submit a proposal for a gulf campus run by a well-regarded American university. American Higher Education officials said they introduced him to N.Y.U. Mr. Ghobash spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the company’s fees, talked with many N.Y.U. officials and paid for a delegation to visit the emirates before meeting Mr. Sexton, the university president, in June 2005.
Mr. Sexton said he solicited the $50 million gift to emphasize that he was not interested in a business-model deal and that academic excellence was expensive. Mr. Ghobash declined to be interviewed. But according to American Higher Education officials, $50 million was more than Mr. Ghobash could handle.
So when the agreement for the Abu Dhabi campus New York University was signed last fall, Mr. Ghobash and the company were out of the picture, and the government of Abu Dhabi — the richest of the emirates — was the partner to build and operate the N.Y.U. campus. The Executive Affairs Authority of Abu Dhabi made the gift in November 2007.
*sighs* Lovely, huh?
To be perfectly frank, I'm not yet convinced that all this isn't just primarily a multi-billion dollar gambit to up NYU's prestige...and generate yet another potential cash cow. Obviously, many American students will jump at this summer/semester/year abroad opportunity that will allow them to go someplace "different" without ever having to leave NYU's safe, all-American bubble, and rich locals are sure to be beating down the gates so that they can get an "authentic" American degree (from a reasonably prestigious school)--and at American prices--without having to go to America.
Not to mention that the university will likely be hard-pressed to match the experience of its Manhattan campus. Especially if it depends primarily upon guest lecturers. (I'll bet that $50 million is going partly toward
grants and scholarships open to extant NYU faculty and graduate students who might be convinced to look favorably on a temporary Lawrence of Arabia-esque life.) Besides, what I overhear from undergraduates leads me to believe that their education is rather assembly line in nature, but there is a wealth of value-added bonus opportunities to be had simply because of where the school "happens" to be. The latter I don't see students getting in the desert.