The idea of students as “customers” at institutions of higher learning evokes intense controvery, but it is usually understood simplistically. The word “customer” is derived from the Latin “consuescere” meaning “to become acquainted with”. In marketplaces of the Renaissance it suggested a bond founded on familiarity and trust. Early universities were located near marketplaces, and shared some of their vibrant atmosphere. Today, as well, there is no reason why the relationship between a customer and provider need be either temporary or superficial. New technologies may help to render the relationship of an institution to its students more lasting and more personal.
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