I will agree that some of the facilities are lavish and a waste of money. However, what you might see as a waste of money might be different than what I see as a waste.
Looking at the 30 best college pools article, I see UCF on there. They have over 50,000 undergraduates ... If the facilities were for a school of 4,000, it might be lavish. For a school of UCF's size, it is appropriate.
You and I definitely have different definitions of lavish and a waste of money. That $60 million UCF facility was described thusly (apparently in marketing material written by the university):
The Swedish Sauna and Sky Deck tanning area, complete with a Tiki Hut, provides a spa-like setting for you to unwind from exams and reinvigorate the senses.
The "South Beach-style environment," according to the project's website, also will include a "resort-style" pool, a sand volleyball court and --- why not? --- a water volleyball court. There's also a high-speed video game room, a fitness center and a life-size chess board.
The journalist who wrote the article added: "I'm sorry, is UCF offering classes or Caribbean cruises?"
Look: college is hard work if done properly. I'm a scientist with a degree in history from a rigorous college. I remember how hard it was personally and for everyone around me (both the humanities and science students). Any student who wants to do well in a traditional college major (but especially in STEM) ---even at a community college --- has to be serious about studying and work very hard. If I had been spending my 19-year-old time at a tiki spa instead of swotting at chemistry, I would have ended up with Cs or worse and never would have got into a decent graduate student position.
The thing is, those tiki spas and lazy rivers appeal to kids at an age when they're extremely vulnerable to distraction. I was a pretty serious student, but if we'd had $60 million worth of luxury amenities at my college, I don't know if I would have been able to walk away from them enough to keep my grades up.
Colleges like UCF are creating multimillion-dollar luxury resorts while offering fluffy degrees in areas like "Hospitality management" (867 degrees awarded at UCF in 2014) and Communications (590 degrees in 2014, including 277 in "interpersonal/organizational communications."). Source
These subject areas aren't designed to get students to look at the world in new ways or to be intellectual challenges that teach them how to think logically and structure their thoughts. They're expensive certification programs that steep kids in a consumerist manage-your-debt lifestyle.
claims that its top 5 majors are engineering, CS, biomedical sciences, biology, and psychology, but the document I linked to above seems to tell a different story (engineering and psychology high, but not the other majors, which were beaten by things like criminal justice and hospitality and MANY other fluffy subject areas). So now I'm doubly cynical about UCF (PLEASE correct me if I've misread those figures). ETA: maybe the incoming freshmen page is speaking of majors declared in fall of first year, with the degrees awarded being the better measure of reality afterward.