Movie Analysis: Ivory Tower

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Film Ivory Tower

The education industry is nowadays one of the most successful in the world as everyone is striving for knowledge that could define the further life. Ivory Tower portrays and discusses the current conditions of the high education industry in the USA. The film also explores growing student debt crisis, as well as how the colleges have reached a point that they should spend millions to maintain country club-like facilities on campus. The director considers Harvard University to be the first American college. It sets an example to other colleges in the USA. Despite being the best, Harvard belongs to 1.25% of the American universities that offer a full scholarship for its students. Others mainly operate without providing any assistance to the students (Rossi, 2014). Moreover, the colleges that offer the extra services demand higher tuition fees. For example, the University of Alabama and the University of Missouri have swimming pools and thus they charge higher fees. “You give momentum to ‘The student is the customer’ when you charge them so much money” (Rossi, 2014), says Michael Roth, a president of Wesleyan University, meaning that each student is just a customer and should agree with the “selling” conditions. However, it is unclear whether it is reasonable to blame students for demanding various amenities if they have been already wasting the large sums of money to attend school. Instead, we should understand how public colleges attract their students and how they set their tuition fees.

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The film provides the audience with vivid examples of inconsistencies in the education industry. The Cooper Union is of the highest concern in the film as it charged the tuition fees for the first time during 150 years of its existence. However, this situation is extraordinary and corrupted. The director gives an increased focus on the fact that the President of Cooper Union, Jamshed Bharucha, has $750,000 salary and state home, while Drew Faust, the President of Harvard University, earns $899,734 managing 21,000 students as well as even more than $30 billion endowments (Rossi, 2014). However, Bharucha confidently responds: “She doesn’t have a fraction of the problem we have.” Peter Buckley, a professor of Cooper Union, reacts that “apparently we are the Harvard of Astor Place” (Rossi, 2014). A possible solution to this unfair situation could be a salary cut. A half of Bharucha’s income could provide the annual tuition fees for minimum nine students. Finally, Stefanie Gray, a graduate of Hunter College, told that although she has a master diploma, she struggles to find a job having $140,000 debt for her education that provides no perspectives (Rossi, 2014). The strategic issue, in this case, is the “price” of the college because debt does not worth the knowledge it can offer.

Industry Analysis

General Environment Analysis

Economic. The tuition fees are constantly being increased because the universities are investing into the campus facilities. For example, the University of Missouri has a large swimming pool and thus its tuition fees are larger than the fees of other colleges in this area. However, its administration explains that the fees increase because they treat their students as the customers. Consequently, when a customer wants better conditions, he/she should pay more. However, this policy makes the students’ debt increase and impacts other spheres leading to the deep despair at education.

The tuition fees are highly influenced by the economic conditions in the country and entire world. The economic crisis has a great impact on the ability of the students to pay for their education. Moreover, it forces the authorities to raise the prices according to the increased expenditures on electricity, gas and other facilities. In 2013, the students of Cooper Union protested when President Jamshed Bharucha announced that because of the unstable economic situation, the university would begin charging its students for tuition, although the university supported every one f its students with a whole scholarship for more than 150 years (Rossi, 2014).

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Global. The current world is constantly evolving. The frantic pace of changes encourages the students who have chosen one faculty and profession to reconsider their choice. After studying a year or two in the university, the students often leave or want to change the faculty because of considerable disappointment at the education system in general or the chosen occupation in particular. For example, Mark Zuckerberg who dropped out of Harvard University found more interesting and profitable occupation – the social network programming.

The universities try to attract as many students as possible. The majority of students might not have necessary knowledge and experience. The statistics indicate that 68% of public universities’ students fail to graduate in four years (Rossi, 2014). It happens due to the fact that the enrolled students rarely have required knowledge which is necessary for further education and thus many students fail to continue education. They cannot pass all the exams and start the next course.

Social. The social opinion influences students’ choice significantly. In fact, they often decide to receive a higher education because it is prestigious to study at the university. For this reason, they take the loans for education which they cannot pay later. For example, Stefanie Gray who graduated from Hunter College with $140,000 debt could not find the job that would help her to pay off the university loan (Rossi, 2014).

Although society impacts students’ decisions, social organizations and state institutions do not assist the colleges and universities with financial or educational support. This is the major cause why the colleges raise the tuition fees and the students’ investment into the university. The social organizations as well as the government refuse to decrease water, gas and other costs or to provide the universities with quotas that would reduce unplanned expenses of the students.

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Porter’s Five Forces Analysis

Industry Rivalry. Industry rivalry is high as there are approximately 4000 colleges and universities in the USA (Rossi, 2014). However, the majority of the students try to enroll in only 400 high schools and thus 10% of the industry has 50% of the market share (Rossi, 2014).

Barriers to Entry. The barriers to entry are high as the American sphere of higher education is intensely competitive. Moreover, growing students’ loans debt and evolving regulations stifle new entrants out of market holding the competition among the existing ones.

Threat of Product or Service Substitution. Threat of product or service substitution is high in this industry due to the abundant number of high schools in the USA and the large part of the return on investment (students’ loan debts).

Buyer Power. The degree of buyer power in the education industry is low to medium as the students’ loans are badly regulated. They do not bring any profits and are hard to give back. Moreover, the high percent of unemployment and disposable income make the students think twice before the university enrolment.

Supplier Power. The degree of supplier power is medium to high as the competition among the universities is high. It directly depends on quality, accessibility, and price.

Thus, the education is a competitive industry due to its attractiveness. 4000 universities offer their education services urging the students that they would assist in life (Rossi, 2014). However, while some universities are overloaded, the others lack the students. The attractiveness of the Ivy League universities encourages the students to take loans in the hope of having a good job in the future. Although the higher education industry has a vast array of troubles, it provides the students not only with the knowledge but also with the experience.


Being the president of a major publicly-funded university, I would definitely offer specific changes in the higher education industry. First, the US higher education institutions should cooperate with the American banks on the question of students’ loans. The government should offer the special loans for the education without any extra percentages. As a result, more and more students will be able to strive for a higher education.

The second issue that should be altered in the higher education industry is the students’ preparation courses. The enrolment process should consist of different stages which would improve students’ knowledge and give them an opportunity to understand the process better. The applicants could attend the courses during their last school year or gap year while searching for their dream occupation. The courses’ major aim should be to fully introduce the students with the peculiarities of the higher education. Moreover, these courses would allow the students to understand the subjects which are taught at the university.

One more option that would be helpful in improving the higher education industry in the USA is making the entire system dynamic by offering the students an option to visit different colleges or universities during one semester or a year after school. That experience would help them to choose the faculty suitable for him/her. The students could register online for the lectures and practical lessons to understand their job preferences.


The cooperation with the banks can solve the issue of the students’ loans. It would become easier to take and give back a loan. If both structures start to interact, it would be easier to find a comprehensive solution for dealing with growing students’ debt. The absence of the percent and extra time of return will allow the students to study calmly. The analysis showed that the higher education became less attractive due to its price. Consequently, the chance to eliminate unreasonably huge tuition fees would allow more students to receive the higher education.

The issue of students’ inability to finish the colleges and universities can be solved by the introduction of university curriculum during the preparation course. By taking these courses, the students could understand whether they chose the right occupation. This knowledge would allow to make a firm decision regarding future education. The analysis showed that the students are unable to finish their higher education as they cannot cope with the variety of subjects. Moreover, the studying process seems to be hard for them, and the students find other activities more interesting for them. For example, Mark Zuckerberg decided to launch Facebook instead of obtaining the Harvard diploma (Rossi, 2014).

The students’ ability to attend different universities and colleges during one semester or years could solve several problems. First, the students would become more confident about the future occupation because an exchange would save them from the dropout. In fact, they would be able to compare and to define what is best for them. Moreover, the students would apply without a hesitation that the money spent on the education would be wasted. Second, the real-time study would show the students the true conditions of the universities. The analysis showed that the students were usually unsatisfied with their education. They tended to drop out of the university during the first years. Moreover, the majority of them cannot find a job after finishing an education. Thus, visiting would prevent the students from making a wrong decision.

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