Dorm rooms have come a long way from this.
As public and private colleges across the country raise tuition, slash academic faculty and question need-blind admissions policies, they continue to spend in one surprising sector: student amenities. In a sort of vicious budgetary circle, schools need students — and their tuition dollars — to maintain quality academics. Research has shown, though, that one of the factors that can be make-or-break when it comes to school choice is what amenities the school offers to its students: state of the art computer and video labs; eating establishments; workout facilities — and dorm rooms. This has driven even state universities to spend big on luxurious dormitories.
This competition for students who have more sophisticated tastes than in past years is creating the perfect environment for schools to try to outdo each other with ever-more posh on-campus housing. Keeping up in the luxury dorm race is increasingly critical to a school’s bottom line: A 2006 study from the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers found that “poorly maintained or inadequate residential facilities” was the number-one reason students reject a school.
Private colleges get most of the mentions on lists of schools with great dorms, like ratings from the Princeton Review, College Prowler, and Campus Splash clearly indicate. However, a few state schools have invested in flashy facilities and are also starting to make some headway on such “Top” lists.
Upperclassmen on campus tend to get first choice of the best dorm rooms, but as the war for student dollars ratchets up, even first-year students at public schools can live in academic style. Regardless of where we, as frugal people, come down on the idea of collegiate spending on splashy dorm rooms, they are here to stay. And they play a major part in the collegiate decision-making process. The following are public schools that have some pretty fancy dorms
Penn State’s Eastview Terrace facility offers upperclassmen fully furnished single rooms with private bathrooms. Rooms are wired for TV cable, with dozens of popular channels and Internet access; there are also refrigerators and microwaves. All of the buildings have mail pickup and delivery.
Georgia State University
Freshmen predominate at GSU’s University Commons, a gated-community complex of 8- to 15-story apartment buildings. Residents get a fully furnished private room in a suite that includes either two or four bedrooms and one or two baths. Each suite comes with a fully equipped kitchen and a living room. Bedrooms are wired with high-speed Ethernet, a high-speed voice link, and cable TV–wifi also is available throughout the complex. There’s also a convenience store, mail delivery, health clinic, and 24-hour security.
Colorado State University
CSU’s Academic Villages was built in 2007 to house first-year engineering and honors students. The facility boasts climate-controlled single or double rooms, each of which comes with its own bathroom. The building is also home to a 44,000-square-foot dining commons, which seats 700 and offers themed menus like Mongolian Grill, Sizzling Salads, Tex Mex and other selections. A fireside lounge offers a spot for study or chat around a roaring hearth during nippy Colorado winters – and forget waiting around in the laundry room for an open machine. High-tech washer-dryers let students check online for machine availability.
East Stroudsburg University (PA)
The Hemlock Suites at East Stroudsburg are a new, $74 million housing complex. Where the campus’s older dorms have shared bathrooms for up to 50 students, the new suites have their own bathrooms and up to four separate bedrooms. They’re also all climate controlled (the energy comes from a new geothermal heating and cooling system) and have brand-new movable furniture, cable, and a kitchenette. Computer labs and lounge spaces are available throughout the complex, and there are two full kitchens.
Purdue University (IN)
According to the architect of Purdue’s First Street Towers, the complex is “essentially a hotel” that was built to attract “helicopter parents who want to send their son or daughter to a college campus but give them all the luxuries of home.” Built in 2009 for $52 million, this dorm has single air-conditioned rooms with private baths arranged in clusters around a central living room-dinette area. Two student lounges on each floor offer 47-inch flat-screen TVs, custom-designed entertainment centers, and ceramic-tiled kitchenettes. For these extras residents pay a $5,000 premium a year, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Kennesaw State University (GA)
The water-featured University Village Suites at Kennesaw State, about half an hour north of Atlanta, is a freshmen-only complex that was built in 2008. The dorm offers students their own furnished bedroom and the option of their own bathroom. Each suite has a small common area, counter space, a mini-fridge, and a microwave. Community kitchens are located throughout the complex, plus internet and cable. There’s also an art gallery, a restaurant and café, a coffee shop, and a convenience store.