The Cost of College: Luxury Dorms

As far as I recall, I’d always imagined college dorms as a grungy, dirty place where I would learn to tough it out by wearing flip flops in the shower, carrying my plastic basket of toiletries through the halls and sharing a cramped space with a complete stranger.

When college did come around, 4 years ago, I dismissed grunge and chose luxury. I was originally placed in one of BU’s biggest dorms, Warren Towers, which looks slightly like a prison…seriously. It actually is considered to be it is the second-largest non-military dormitory in the country. Figures… Anyways, I opted to try doing a summer swap with my assigned roommate into a dorm which was a former hotel. We ended up getting it, paying a bit more and living in a suite where we only shared a bathroom among four girls.

Still, my roommate turned out to be an emo photographer, who locked her Apple at night playing weird whale music, smoked out on the balcony (which wasn’t a balcony but a ledge) and used to chop her hair so it would hang diagonally across her eyes every week. My two other suitemates turned out to be on the girls hockey team. They were loud, rambunctious and loved to drink. Oh, and I also had to go THROUGH their room to get to the bathroom. It made for an interesting freshman year, but it also made realize I’d be willing to spend more money to live in a single in a nice apartment-style dorm, which is what I did for the rest of college. Okay, so maybe I didn’t tough it out too much, but my freshman year was enough trouble already.

Today, the cost of college is rising, even in this tough economy, and dorms are getting less grunge and more luxe by the minute. The Chicago Tribune recently published an article about this very phenomenon, saying that colleges are building “swanky housing to lure undergrads.” In the article, they list several universities that are all about the luxury dorms, including Purdue University, Arizona State University, and my very own Boston University as well. Price tags for all this luxury range from $5,000 to $6,500, if not more. Some of the crazy amenities college kids are getting today? Walk-in closets, private bathrooms, personal climate control panels, maid service and sometimes even hot tubs and tanning booths. Oh, and everyone gets their own room.

As Tribune writer Sarah Olkon writes, “For the millennial generation – born between 1982 and 2003 – sharing space doesn’t always come easy. Privacy isn’t negotiable.”

To my own alma mater’s population at Boston University, luxury and real estate are not strangers. We were always joking how BU wanted to buy all of Boston eventually. Maybe that’s not entirely true, but cynical BU students don’t seem to have any problem moving into the new 960-bed luxury dorm overlooking the Charles River and paying the extra $5,000 to make it happen.

It seems to me that all of this luxury is ruining the romantic image I had of college back before it all began. What will happen to all those stories about the crazy college roommates? Obsolete. No one wants to tough it out anymore. How will we learn how to suck it up and share space with someone they don’t know? And what happens when the real world arrives? Will all these kids realize that they will be paying the same price, out of their own pocket this time, for a coffin-sized room in a grungy, smelly apartment building in New York City?

Then again, who am I to pass judgment? I chose luxury over grunge in my time. Maybe it didn’t have a walk-in closet or a hot tub, but it made me happy.


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