By Brittany Shoot
August 17, 2018

The University of Akron is phasing out 80 college degree programs while adding a new e-sports facility that it says will be the world’s largest for a school, raising criticism about its priorities.

The university will phase out the programs, from bachelors degrees to PhD level, following a year-long review. That’s roughly 20% of the degree programs that the school offers and is meant to free up about $6 million for spending elsewhere, according to a report from the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

A day before, the university said it would open “the world’s largest amount of student esports space” and told the Chronicle that converting existing rooms across campus into gaming centers would cost roughly $750,000. Covering more than 5,200 square feet, the new e-sports facilities will be home to the university’s new varsity, club and recreational competitive online gaming offerings.

It’s been a big couple of years for e-sports such as Fortnite, and the rise in competitive online gaming popularity has often crossed into (or collided with) academia in new and unusual ways. The National Association of Collegiate Esports was founded in 2016 and already includes more than 80 members schools. A number of higher education institutions now recruit top e-sports gamers for their competitive college teams. And earlier this year, Ashland University became the nation’s first university to offer a Fortnite scholarship.

That doesn’t mean everyone is excited to, well, get in the game. The Akron announcement earned some skepticism on social media, including a tweet from comedian Rhea Butcher, who is still paying off student loans after attending the school.

This is where I went to college. I am still paying off the loans. https://t.co/tbJB3ifyq1

— rhea butcher (@RheaButcher) August 17, 2018

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

But a number of big-name universities are betting big on gaming this year. Just ahead of the start of the 2018-2019 school year, the University of California, Berkeley plans to open its new Cal Esports Community Center on Aug. 27. The center relies on technology and funding partnerships with computer graphics company Nvidia and Corsair, which makes gaming equipment and accessories.

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