Presentation Details

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Eleventh International Literacy and Education Research Network Conference on Learning

'A Buyer’s Market:’ The Implications of the Student-as-Consumer Metaphor and the Commercialization and Renovation of American Universities

Christy Irene Ellsperman.

To approach the university as one might approach a text is to discover a pattern of meaning centered on consumerism. For, while American institutions of higher learning have, on one hand, denied the student-as-consumer metaphor and labeled it as detrimental to classroom learning and the ethics of teaching, these institutions have also simultaneously subscribed to the metaphor, choosing to recognize students as global consumers out to purchase the best education for the best price. Education has become a product to be advertised and sold, raising competition between these institutions. The institutions for higher learning, trying to keep recruitment and funding up, recognize that their livelihood depends upon selling the same product, with different packaging, more effectively to the consumer. Institutions have advanced the hold of the student-as-consumer metaphor by performing corporate-contracted research and building new student centers in order to improve campus conveniences and aesthetics, hoping to enhance recruitment. Reading the architecture of the campus in such buildings as the student center allows us to discover cultural implications, which are reflected in this medium of representation. And in submitting to such types of commercialization and recruitment ploys, the universities have perpetuated growing consumerist attitudes among students, which can be seen beyond crippling debt and as far down as the classroom. Consequently, today’s colleges and universities are training students to be consumers in a corporate-based credit economy.


Christy Irene Ellsperman  (United States)
Senior student at Susquehanna University
Department of English, Susquehanna University
Susquehanna University, Selinsgrove PA

Christy Ellsperman is an English Literature major, pursuing departmental honors, and has dual minors in both journalism and philosophy. Christy is the Editor of Living and Arts for The Crusader newspaper. She is a member of the Honor’s Program, Sigma Tau Delta, The Society for Collegiate Journalists and the philosophy club. Christy is employed at Susquehanna’s Tutorial Services as a Writing Center tutor. Her plans after graduation include attending graduate school in order to obtain a PhD, specializing in twentieth century British Literature and literary theory.

  • Student-as-consumer metaphor
  • Interdisciplinary interpretation
  • Corporate-based credit economy
  • Consumerism
  • Student center
  • Reading architecture
  • Commercialization
  • Civic
  • Classroom learning vs. outside learning

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)