Higher Education as a Luxury Good

Author: Haochen Sun

Published in New York University Journal of Law & Business, 2020, v. 17 n. 1, p. 153-209.

Abstract: The 2019 college admissions bribery scandal revealed uncomfortable truths about elite higher education and its conspicuous consumption. In this article, I explore the legal implications of treating higher education as a luxury good reflecting wealth and status. Like luxury goods companies, elite universities are regarded as owners of luxury brands. Just as companies such as Louis Vuitton, Ferrari, and Hermes own brands that enjoy a high level of exclusivity and serve conspicuous consumption, so too do elite universities. In the minds of many, Harvard, Stanford, and Yale are analogous to Louis Vuitton, Ferrari, and Hermes.

This “luxurification” of higher education, however, perpetuates class division and violates the right to education by favoring students from families who can pay the tuition. In response, I put forward an intellectual property-based proposal as a new means of protecting the right to education. While their trademarks can be regarded luxury brands, I suggest that elite universities should responsibly exercise their intellectual properties, thereby making knowledge accessible to the general public through open access and fair use modes. Through fulfilling such responsibility, elite universities would enable students from all walks of life to benefit from the democratization of knowledge.

View full article in SSRN: https://privpapers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3830402#