Baby boomers like their creature comforts

November 20, 1998

First-year students so enjoy the creature comforts of campus life in the United States that they are staying into their second and third years, compounding the squeeze on college housing.

Suites and apartment-style housing have started to replace the dormitory buildings of the 1960s and 1970s. There are more bathrooms, cable television, and single rooms like home.

Innovations such as "substance-free" housing where students will not be disturbed by drunken revelries have helped, as have personal high-speed internet connections, with a "port per pillow" becoming the norm.

Gary Schwarzmueller, executive director of the Association of College and University Housing Officers, said the college-age population was rising and "people in the housing business have gotten better at what they do".

Georgia Tech in Atlanta put in 2,500 new beds when the Olympic Games came to the city. But it already has an overflow, Mr Schwarzmueller said.

The swelling numbers have hit hardest in popular urban universities such as the private University of Southern California, which is paying $300,000 to temporarily house 90 students in 50 rooms at a hotel next to the main campus.

"It's a nice hotel, there's no question about it, and has a real good reputation," said USC housing director Jeff Urdahl. "It's seen by the students as a pretty good thing."

USC typically expects to accommodate 80-87 per cent of its first years. This year, the figure is an unprecedented 92 per cent, said Mr Urdahl. His department is housing 5,656 people, up 300 from last year.

Other measures include "lofting" a third bed in shared rooms, usually above a desk, and putting three students apiece in student lounges.

The story is the same at places like the University of Minnesota and the University of Maryland, which have turned to local hotels, and is repeated across states like California, Texas, and Florida, where the college-age population is booming.

The Education Department estimates that 14.6 million students will enrol this year, an all- time high and a 240,000 increase on last year.

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