In the early days of presidential debates, the candidates came together in television studios. Over time, however, the college campus became a popular debate spot.
But it’s a big sacrifice to host a presidential debate. According to an article by Tyler Kingkade in the Huffington Post:
The cost of playing host for Lynn University, the Boca Raton, Fla. site of Monday’s third and final presidential debate is $5 million.
Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y., which last week hosted the second presidential debate, shelled out $4.5 million. That’s the same amount Hofstra spent in 2009 on its now disbanded football team. Centre College in Kentucky spent $3.3 million getting ready to be the host this year’s vice-presidential debate.
There’s no quantifiable benefit to hosting a presidential debate but apparently some colleges still think it’s worth it. Denver, which hosted the first presidential debate this year, also had one of the 2008 events. Colleges apparently hope that the publicity the debates generate, plus the reflected gravitas of the presidency itself, can enhance the schools’ prestige.
The 2008 debates occurred at the University of Mississippi, Belmont University, Hofstra, and Washington University in St. Louis (for the vice presidential debate).