The Frills of Campus Living

Other colleges outfit their dormitories with hot tubs, HD television sets and more. At USC, the recently opened West 27th Place luxury apartment complex boasts a walk-in tanning booth — called the Sundazzler — along with decorative fountains, tiled roofs and landscaped sidewalks. Its kitchens feature granite countertops and ice makers, just in case someone feels like mixing a margarita.

Granted, the complex is not official university housing, but it was built to serve USC students. Its developer, American Campus Communities, which describes itself as “the nation’s premier owner and manager of luxurious, academically oriented student housing,” advertises the complex as “an off-campus student community that is built specifically with you, the college student, in mind.” Since when do college students need “luxurious” student housing?

Jonathan Zimmerman takes a look at the “college as country club” in an opinion piece for The Los Angeles Times.

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18 Comments / Post A Comment

sea ermine (#122)

Oh my god there were so many of these where I went to college. So many. Probably because it was an in state school which had a ton of out of state students, a lot of fairly wealthy out of state students. Because of places like this it ended up being cheaper for me to live on campus all 4 years. Especially since when you move off campus they take away some of your financial aid.

probs (#296)

I’d as soon dunk my nethers in a snake pit as a college dorm hot tub.

I’m not sure I entirely buy the premise that fancy apartments are what’s keeping people from learning life skills. I had your fairly stereotypical “dorm experience” (two people in a 10×12 room, mini-fridge and illegal hot plates, shared bathrooms), and it in no way prepared me for dealing with all the paperwork and prompt billpaying that comes with being an adult. And I’m not sure where the fancy art buildings come into it, except in the sense that fancy buildings are indeed expensive.

On the other hand, if you finish college and your idea of “standard amenities” includes tanning beds and pristine landscaping, you may be in for a bit of a disappointment when you go for your first apartment.

EM (#1,012)

@SarcasticFringehead I think that if paying increased fees to subsidize the construction of all those fancy buildings leads to more student debt then it is detrimental.

Also is it normal to live in campus housing for all four years of your degree? At my school, residence buildings were pretty much exclusively populated by first year students and everyone else moved off campus to exotic, awful basement suites.

@Michelle Oh, I agree that anything that raises tuition without substantively improving student experience/learning is detrimental. I just thought it was weird that he threw that into a piece about how the way students live now is keeping them from understanding how money works when they get out of school.

sea ermine (#122)

@Michelle It depends on your campus. At my school, much of off campus housing was more expensive than on campus housing, a lot of students were fairly well off so landlords knew they could raise prices and still get people to pay if they wanted to not live in dorms.
There were definitely a couple areas of town that had much cheaper housing, but, the school factored whether you were living on campus into your aid package. So if you move off campus, or move home and commute, they take away some of your loans. So a lot of people stayed on campus and got stuck paying high prices for dorms because they didn’t have the money to cover the loans they would love by moving off campus.

kellyography (#250)

Jeez, and I thought my on-campus college apartment in 2003 was fancy. Cable was included, my 2-bed had 2 private bathrooms, and we had a dishwasher. The apartment I had my second year was off-campus and decidedly less fancy, but I didn’t have to share it with a spoiled idiot, so that helped.

sony_b (#225)

Wow. I graduated from USC 19 years ago and while that building is ridiculous (and there are a few more ridiculous ones) the article fails to point out that the neighborhood around USC is an absolute shithole. I was living in University owned housing at 28th and Hoover when the Rodney King riots happened and watched the neighborhood businesses burn to the ground and had national guardsmen question me about whether or not I owned the things I was moving from my house to my car in the following days. The vast majority of the student housing there is still pretty crappy and in quite dismal neighborhoods.

People who can afford “college tours” are the targets of buildings like this, but they still aren’t the norm.

maddog (#1,935)

Ahahaha, this is so wildly outside of my experience I can’t even. My first-year dorm was a concrete monster whose design was rather infamously originally intended for a prison. It showed.

I have fond memories of my cell, though.

cryptolect (#1,135)

@maddog Did you go to a liberal arts college in Southern California?

@maddog My dorm was built as a pre-civil war mental institution with a morgue in the basement. The body drawers were still there, just painted over so you couldn’t open them. COLLEGE!

maddog (#1,935)

@cryptolect No, I went to a medium-sized university in semi-rural Ontario. But it doesn’t surprise me that there is more than one university with this kind of dorm “design.”

maddog (#1,935)

@Madeline Shoes Oh my. YOU WIN!

nutmeg (#1,383)

I only lived in dorms for a year (because I transferred 5000 miles away to a commuting school, AS ONE DOES) but I think the cockroaches and sugar ants perfectly prepared me to be underwhelmed by my current apartment’s cockroach problem (like, they’re smaller AND we don’t have ants!).

ThatJenn (#916)

I agree that this stuff is kind of ridiculous, but I definitely can’t find fault with the developers for capitalizing on it. The college town where I live built a lot of these kinds of places in 2006-2007, and then the recession hit and there are all these spooky, half-built complexes, or just luxury apartments/condos that are never full and have constantly-dropping prices and maintenance levels. Given that I’m not really personally impacted by it, I find the whole thing kind of fascinating.

That said, sensationalistic pieces about these kinds of places and, even more so, the fancy amenities colleges and universities themselves build to attract students get used all the time to deny state funding to my place of work (or to demonize both private and public institutions for tuition increases), and that makes me sad.

@fo (#839)

“Granted, the complex is not official university housing”

Sooo, what? Parents who foot the $50k tuition bill will find the $2000/month rent (for half of a shared apartment) not so bad? And developers are taking advantage of that?

Newsflash: Rich people spend money on nice things for themselves and their children. Film at 11!

amglory89 (#3,588)

@@fo Can’t wait for the film! Bound to learn SO much.

fake coffee snob (#2,227)

Reminds me of this piece about students at UC Merced living in pre-recession mansions: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/13/us/homework-and-jacuzzis-as-dorms-move-to-mcmansions-in-california.html?pagewanted=all

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