Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dorm room beds

Growing up, I always had a twin bed. And no tv, but that's a story for another day.

Sometime around my senior year of high school, my parents got my sister and my brother -- both younger -- queen size waterbeds. Their purported justification was that I was going to be moving out soon. I was annoyed, but even at 17, I would have understood that buying me a new bed was probably a waste of money (that might have been better spent on clothes and shoes).

When I moved into my first dorm room, I looked at the stained little twin mattress in horror. Not because it was so small, but because it was not particularly clean. And it was ancient. But you know what? It was comfortable, and I somehow managed to live with it for the entire year.

My second year, I moved into a historic dorm that had just completed renovations. My dorm room had a new twin sized mattress. Unfortunately, it was covered in vinyl, which made it exceptionally uncomfortable. Still, I lived with it.

I bought a full-sized bed when I graduated and went to law school. But that's not the point.

One of the things I learned in college was that it is possible for two people to fit on a twin-sized bed, even if one of them is over 6 feet tall. It might not be perfect, but it works. Heck, it's a right of passage. And people have survived worse. (Sleeping on the bathroom floor comes to mind, but I'm sure there are worse things than that, too.)

So it really annoys me to read in The Washington Post that whiny, spoiled college students are now getting larger dorm mattresses because twin mattresses are too small.

University officials hoping to keep students on campus and compete with off-campus housing are trying new room designs and all manner of amenities to appeal to the millennial generation, especially those seeking the comforts of home while in school. Some have given single rooms to students not used to sharing. Others have offered maid service and microwaves. Now they're giving them a larger space on which to lay their heads.

Maid service too? Sheesh. What's next, wash-dry-fold?

Still, I had to laugh about how the students all basically said the same thing:

" . . . And it is easier to fit multiple people."
". . . students also indicated 'that sometimes they are not in the bed alone.'"
". . . And it's definitely much easier to have another person in the bed if the occasion arises."

I'm sure their parents are all so proud.


Joe Grossberg said...

Well, that, and kids are fatter than ever.

Actually, it's about a cheaper way to compete for those valuable tuition dollars -- a few hundred per student, amortized over many, many years.

Justin S. said...

I agree with Joe... Sure, the kids may be spoiled, but if that was the only thing at play, American wouldn't have changed anything. It's not about the kids who have to live on campus freshman year, it's about keeping the kids on campus for subsequent years and the university getting more money overall by investing a little now.

DSL said...

Now we get to be the old men kvetching about how everything was so much harder in our day.

dara said...

Justin & Joe: I don't think on campus housing makes much money for universities. It's likely a net zero operation and is offered more as a tradition and a convenience than anything else. In such a scenario, the goal would be to have the dorms close to capacity so as to not lose money.

Besides, the universities are not-for-profits. They're probably aiming to not hemorrhage money that is better spent on actual learnin'. If the dorms aren't full, then they lose money, and the real estate isn't being put to its highest and best use.

Nowadays, most universities probably expect students to move out of the dorms after the first couple years. At Florida, they couldn't even guarantee housing to all Freshmen, which is why my brother never lived in a dorm.

DSL: I totally agree. Well, except for the "old" and "man," of which I am neither.

Paige Jennifer said...

Idiot administrators. Just do what Smith College did - require students live on campus for at least two of the four years they are enrolled. Don't live on campus, don't get a degree. Figures a women's college would know how to play the game (wink).

mad said...

For maid service, I might just go back to school!

Justin S. said...

Net zero operation?

Room and board is another $10,000 or $15,000 a year on top of tuition. That's like getting $1,000 per student rent per month. Granted, the students have furnished rooms and don't pay utilities, but they also typically only live there eight or nine months out of the year. And for what? Basically two people living in a studio apartment with a roommate, no kitchen and a shared bathroom. No way campus housing is a net zero operation. They have a ton of incentive to get students to stay in dorms. They are bringing in more money to put toward learnin', not the other way around.

Evil Spock said...

I agree with joe about fat kids.

I had a twin in college, and it was a little rickety. Sometimes it would collapse in the middle of the night because . . . games of Stratego got out of hand. Yeah, thats it, Stratego.

p dog said...

"multiple" people? Damn, that's some impressive sluttiness, even for college kids.

In my day, we were pretty satisfied with two people and maybe a small pet.

DSL said...

So is this one, a few, or most colleges? And they've certainly upgraded other things, like the food services, since I've been in college.

By the way, can we please stop blaming the fat kids? Even if you were/are one.

dara said...

PJ: I think that as a freshman, you should be required to live on campus. Not just because it's how you meet people, but in most cases, you're like 18 years old. It should serve as sort-of a transition between living with your parents and living on your own.

mad: If I had maid service, I wouldn't have wanted to graduate so quickly.

Justin: In DC $10,000 to $15,000 a year is below average rent for a 1-bedroom unfurnished apartment without utilities or furniture. It's not unreasonable to think that the cost of providing the buildings, the maintenance, the furniture, the food, the security, the utilities, the insurance, the real estate taxes, and everything else that goes along with on-campus housing is high. But now I'm curious. I'll do research and find out.

Still my basic point is the same: The colleges are providing larger beds because whiny, spoiled (and perhaps larger) students want them.

Evil Spock: It's not just that they're fat; it's that they're big. But that's no excuse. My ex was over 6'4", and they didn't even give him an extra large twin bed.

p dog: LOL. Way funnier than just thinking about the revolving door of bed-mates.

DSL: I think it's a few, but becoming a trend. FSU outsourced its food service, and it was not horrible. We had a good bagel place and decent pizza and subs.

dara said...

Follow up to Justin: Here are some interesting articles on university finance. None really answeres the fundamental question, though.

*Time Magazine: Why Colleges Cost Too Much
*Ohio Proposal to Sell off Dorms
*Why Do Colleges Build Dorms?

Justin S. said...

Not that I can really prove anything one way or the other, but $10,000 to $15,000 for a one bedroom isn't quite the right comparison. Since these are shared rooms, $20,000 to $30,000 is the right comparison. And this is for a studio without a kitchen or its own bathroom... not a one bedroom.

The only expense that you mention that for-profit apartment complexes don't have to deal with is food.... and meal plans are often another expense on top of housing costs, anyway.

dara said...

Justin: We don't know what these dorm rooms are like, either. I had one that was a typical dorm room, communal bathrooms, etc., and one that was a suite sharing a small bathroom. My friends had one where 8 students shared four bedrooms, two living areas and a large bathroom. And others had ones that were more like shared apartments with kitchens and private bedrooms.

Plus, some students have singles.

In DC, $1,000 per month might get you a studio, or renting someone's basement. And it probably won't be furnished.

I don't know about you, but I pay my own utilities. And I have to pay renter's insurance. And, while my apartment provides a party room/lounge/kitchen, it's not free for me to use it.

I think professional landlords know how to make money off real estate. As indicated by that article about Ohio, colleges do not.