'Study? I need a whirlpool bath!'

September 20, 2002

American students returning to their campuses for the start of the school year are finding remarkable new amenities from room service and juice bars to personal trainers and whirlpool bath.

Universities admit they use such five-star features to tempt recruits. Some now put photographs of their increasingly luxurious halls of residence on the covers of their catalogues rather than their faculty or classrooms.

A spate of new construction has resulted in deluxe accommodation that is a far cry from the Spartan housing and shared bathrooms of old.

New dormitories boast computer, cable TV and telephone hookups in every room, with voicemail and call-waiting. At the University of Texas in San Antonio, the undergraduate dorm has a competition-sized indoor swimming pool. Purdue University has in-room movies. Michigan State University boasts therapeutic bubble-jet tubs.

Frills such as these keep students coming back, according to a survey commissioned by a company that manufactures combination refrigerators and microwave ovens. The study found that nearly 23 per cent more students continued to live on campus if they had such appliances provided in their rooms than if they did not.

One of the most common additions to halls has been electrical outlets to accommodate the growing student inventories of computers, scanners, fax machines, televisions, DVD players and other electronic devices. Babson College near Boston even provides every student with a laptop.

A separate survey conducted by a Boston architectural firm found that students above all wanted privacy, quiet and space. And so the other major change in dormitories is an increase in single rooms and semi-private baths, rather than shared rooms and common bathrooms.

Dorms are not the only buildings being revamped. Colleges are also installing multimillion-dollar athletic facilities that include fitness centres, weight rooms, squash courts and other features reminiscent of expensive health clubs. Xavier College in Chicago employs personal trainers while the Rochester Institute of Technology has a sports bar with plasma TVs for the sedentary sports lover.

If the fastest way to a student's heart is through his stomach, universities have that covered, too. Central Michigan University delivers pizza to students' rooms and other schools have added gourmet menus, custom omelette stations, flavoured coffees, juice bars and sushi.

DePauw University, though, has surpassed them all - it has invited parents to submit their students' favourite recipes, which it then serves in its dining halls.

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