Student Loans

Just What Indebted Students Needed: Hideously Expensive Luxury Dorms

Can students afford a night at the Ritz Carlton University?


Taj Mahal
Yann / Wikimedia Commons

Private and public university dormitories keep getting nicer and nicer—and more expensive—courtesy of soaring tuition prices and generous support from taxpayers.

Students may be graduating $30,000 in debt, but at least they live in relative opulence for four, five, or six years. From the Associated Press:

Campus living for students today is a far cry from the cramped dormitories of generations past. New facilities are geared to handle laptops, smartphones and tablets and offer Wi-Fi connectivity and extra room outlets. Suites housing two or more people — with a shared bathroom instead of communal ones — are also popular, and some of the new halls feature computer labs, study centers, cafes and even a gaming room.

Fifty-two new residence halls at private and public schools to house 19,000 students opened last year or will open this year around the U.S., with a price tag of more than $2 billion, according to Paul Abramson, an analyst with New York-based Intelligence in Education who tracks college construction. Overall, the number of new residence hall construction is up from 40 that Abramson counted a year ago for his annual May survey.

The surge comes as U.S. schools are simultaneously trying to attract students with the comforts of home while fighting perceptions that tuition hikes and other expenses are putting college out of reach for a growing number of Americans. But even as costs go up, demand for updated residence halls and other amenities is motivating schools to keep spending.

Wichita State University provides a good example of what this means for students:

At Wichita State, a new $65 million residence hall and dining facility at the center of campus has a waiting list while openings are plentiful at the university's older, lower-priced halls. It'll cost between $10,000 and $12,000 a year (including meals) to live in the new facility, compared to $6,800 a year for older residence halls.

Nicer stuff is nice, sure. Infrastructure gets old and needs to be replaced. And campuses can certainly support a range of differently-priced living options.

All that said, the trend seems to be toward more opulent housing, even as students have fallen a trillion dollars into debt to get degrees that are less and less likely to guarantee jobs. Since the federal government's loan program helps students pay the cost of college up front—no matter how insane it is—colleges have every incentive to keep raising the price.

Now that so many graduates are having trouble repaying their loans, the government is considering a number of measures to reduce or forgive their debts. It's easy to see where this leads. Since the government made the loans, taxpayers take the hit.

In other words, students may not be able to afford a night at the Ritz Carlton University, but as long as the bill doesn't come for years—or gets sent to taxpayers instead—who will notice?

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  1. Because I was in the honors college in undergrad, I got to live in the brand new dorms. Depending on the year I either had a suite with 4 guys sharing one bathroom, or a suite with 6 sharing 2 bathrooms. A common room in each of those of course. The single I had in the 6 person suite was larger than the doubles in the “shoebox” dorms from the 60s (I found out a couple of weeks ago they finally tore them down and are building replacements). I think the entire upcharge for having a suite instead of a regular room was like 2%.

    1. Because I was a spoiled brat an anti-social jerk, I never lived in the dorms. Even from my first days as a freshman, I lived off-campus in an apartment. Of course it was “against the rules” but who actually enforced them?

      1. Would it have been against the rules if you had lived with your parents? That is quite common now. Of course, I don’t know when or where you went to college.

        1. I know that my school would make an exception if your parents lived within a certain distance of the school. I believe that a lot of other schools with a mandatory on-campus period do something similar.

      2. I was always able to find a room in an apartment with guys whose parents paid the rent. My rent payment was their pocket money.

  2. To be honest, I regret having gone to college. I think I would be making more money now had I joined the workforce in earnest at 18.

    1. I am not sure I would be making more money (although it is possible), but I would probably be doing what I enjoy if I had bypassed college.

    2. My wife is regretting having gone to med school. Although, she went to a “cheap” school, so we’ve almost paid her loans off and she hasn’t even started year 3 of residency yet.

      We’re just hoping she can get a good 10 years of sweet doctor salary in before the government fucks it up beyond repair.

      Her undergrad degree was in biomedical engineering, so she could have been making good money these past 6 years.

      1. Have you guys thought about moving to Costa Rica or Panama?

        1. I absolutely have. Unfortunately, she’s not too thrilled with the idea. Perhaps after retirement.

          1. I keep looking for jobs in Panama. In the meantime I am learning Spanish.

    3. College was the best 6 years of my life. No shit! Wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

      But, granted, times have changed.

  3. Any predictions on when the higher ed bubble will pop? I’m guessing…soon. Here in Tallahassee, student housing construction has been turned up to 11.

    1. Never underestimate the voting public’s willingness to subsidize a bubble if it is “for the children” or labeled “education”.

    2. What bubble? Personal net wealth in the US is at an all-time high and wealth from other countries is pouring into US higher ed.

      1. What bubble?

        The motto of central bank clowns everywhere.

        1. We’d be so much better off on 19th century bank scrip!

          1. Yes we would, since the standard of living increased faster in the 18th century than it has since the Fed was created. But that’s still a false dichotomy.

              1. You’re full of shit. The 19th century was filled with panics and depressions all the way up to 1907.

                Then the Fed tightened in 1930-34 for some stupid reason. Right tool -wrong end used.

                1. Glad to know there were no more panics and depressions after 1907.

                2. KKK member Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act into law in 1913. For some odd reason the Great Depression was not stopped by this wonderful law. “Recession” is just the latest euphemism for what was once called a “panic”.

                  1. The Fed tightened then. Can you not read?

                    Bernanke apologized for the actions of the 1930s Fed for making things far worse than they should have been.

                    1. Tightening had nothing to do with it. The Fed’s expansionary policy fueled a credit bubble, mainly in housing. The main qualification for being a central banker is to not learn from the past.

                    2. Palin, you honestly think that devaluing the dollar even further (and thus eroding the value of savings) would have helped?

                      Inflation is the most regressive tax of all. Rich people can store money in commodities and other tangible assets. Poor people do not have that option. The poor are harmed deeply by inflation. As are people who trust banks with their money in savings accounts.

                    3. Deflation is worse and was the real problem then.

                      Never worry about something innocuous like inflation when the disease of deflation is killing people.

                    4. Palin,

                      Wet sidewalks cause rain!

                      Deflation was a symptom, not a cause. In fact, deflation was needed to (at least partially) restabilize the market. Of course other things were also needed – things the government would not permit.

                3. Mainly attributed to fractional reserve banking and other statist nonsense like the Bank of the United States.

                  The ones that were natural parts of the business cycle were short-lived and minor.

                  Here’s a nice list.

                  1. For example, the Panic of 1873:

                    However, this “depression” saw an extraordinarily large expansion of industry, of railroads, of physical output, of net national product, and real per capita income. As Friedman and Schwartz admit, the decade from 1869 to 1879 saw a 3-percent-per annum increase in money national product, an outstanding real national product growth of 6.8 percent per year in this period, and a phenomenal rise of 4.5 percent per year in real product per capita.

                    The myth was brought about by misinterpretation of the fact that prices in general fell sharply during the entire period. Indeed they fell from the end of the Civil War until 1879. Friedman and Schwartz estimated that prices in general fell from 1869 to 1879 by 3.8 percent per annum. In the natural course of events, when government and the banking system do not increase the money supply very rapidly, free-market capitalism will result in an increase of production and economic growth so great as to swamp the increase of money supply.

          2. Yes. Yes we would.

        2. To be fair, a bubble is generally when the Net Present Value of the good is on average negative. Often the word bubble is used when the NPV is just lower than expected and a college degree, probably, fits into the lower than expected category.

          That being said, college education is fragmented into various groups, a) the degrees that generate a good income and require a lot of work, b) the degrees that don’t generate a good income and c) the degrees that will generate high income (with little work) but are largely filled by students with high value family connections.

          All of the students without high value family connections who are getting low value degrees and are funding it with debt are probably looking at a Negative return on their investment.

          1. All true, but a bubble can form when mass credit to the unworthy is supplied by the private market.

            See, the US housing bubble 2004-2007.

            1. The amount of credit available and appetite for risk are both greatly influenced by central bank policy.

              1. Or when the government strong arms banks into providing loans to the credit-unworthy with threats of “anti-discrimination” regulation and lawsuits. Or when the government acts as the lender because they don’t care about losses.

                I was working for a financial company in 2008 when one of our clients passed and we had to sell her house (really nice place…upscale and pricey for the market it was in, in the Midwest). A family of Mexican immigrants with no collateral, no credit history to speak of, and questionable income levels was able to purchase it without a downpayment through the USDA, at a below-market fixed rate.

                Nothing against the family…for all I know they’re very nice people who pay their bills, and I’m pro-immigration. But in a lending market based on reality, there’s not a banker out there who gives them that loan at that rate.

      2. Perhaps you will listen to Mark Cuban?…..ble-2014-6

        1. Cuban is a smart guy. A cap on student loan amounts will just reprice priorities, imo. Maybe colleges will fold en masse like he says? OK, maybe.

          I know the bias for conservatives is anti-education though. I sense a lot of wishful thinking in this bubble talk.

          1. Why do you believe the only way to be educated is to spend a ton of money at a university?

          2. If by “anti-education” you mean “doesn’t think increasing the percentages of taxpayer funds thrown at something improves it or makes it more accessible to the market,” then sure.

      3. Wait. So you’re happy that the ultra rich have gotten richer while the middle class have gotten poorer?

        Wait again. That’s no surprise, you’re a prog after all. Whatever marching order The Party gives, you follow.

        1. And you’re a fucking fascist.

          1. How do you figure that? Your hero, George Soros, was a card-carrying Nazi and you defend his theft of Jewish property for the Reich to this day.

            Sounds like you’re the fascist, guy.

            1. Jews were Nazis. I’ve heard your shit before.

              Just fuck off.

      4. wealth from other countries is pouring into US higher ed.

        Shriek, by pure blind error, tells the truth. Other countries’ governments are paying to send their students to American schools, thereby supporting the continued inflation of the price of college education.

    3. I imagine you’re talking about FSU as FAMU is so poorly run, it is more likely to collapse under the weight of its own administrative incompetence.

      1. Eh. The apartment complexes don’t give a shit who you register with, as long as your financial aid check clears. Its the FAMU grad students who don’t get paid until the end of the semester, if at all.

        1. Right, I was talking about private student housing. FSU is on a building spree, but it’s mostly not student housing. Also,

          FAMU is so poorly run, it is more likely to collapse under the weight of its own administrative incompetence


  4. Don’t college kids rent rooms from locals anymore?

    1. A lot of colleges require students to live on campus for at least a couple of years.

      1. You can’t be educated otherwise.

      2. Pity. One thing that Johns Hopkins did right, at least when I was there, was to encourage students after their freshpersyn (or whatever we’re supposed to call it now) year to find off-campus apartments. Of course, we had the advantage of Baltimore rents.

        1. Wait, you went to Hopkins too? When? Scruffy Nerfherder and I were both there in the early 90s. I moved into the Carlyle after freshman year.

          1. I went from 1980 to 1983 (oh, and get off of my lawn!). I had enough AP credits to shave off a year.

        2. Not anymore, they went to 2 year stays in ’91 I think.

          1. Two years stays started to become an option in 91 but weren’t required; there weren’t enough new dorm rooms to make them required. If I recall correctly, the poorer students all tried to get the new sophomore dorms because they were cheaper/subsidized. One of the new buildings was a renovation of the building with the campus bar that was lost in said renovation, which completely sucked.

            1. One of the new buildings was a renovation of the building with the campus bar that was lost in said renovation, which completely sucked.

              The Grad Club in McCoy, great atmosphere (if you like hippie dive bars) and cheap beer

        3. Of course, we had the advantage of Baltimore rents.

          Well, that’s certainly one way of looking at it.

  5. Sweet baby Baphomet, today’s students are coddled in every way possible, aren’t they? I guess it’s good training for moving back into the parents’ basement.

  6. This is one of the many reasons I will never be donating to my school, unless they suddenly focus more on delivering a quality education for a good price instead of building new buildings (ha!).

  7. A lot of college students rent off campus apartments, or houses off campus. But then they demand more parking, complain about parking prices, how they can’t find a spot near their classes, staff complain about students taking spaces, etc.

    I went to UCF in the late 90s, when something like 75% of students commuted. Depending on the time of day, students would simply park in the grass and on the sides of roads around campus. Tickets were only like $5.

    1. And I could not pay those tickets right up until I found out paying them was required for graduation.

    2. I went to UCF in the late 90s, when something like 75% of students commuted. Depending on the time of day, students would simply park in the grass and on the sides of roads around campus.

      I went to Arizona State in the late 90s–the first year I had to park by Sun Devil stadium. If you didn’t get there at an early enough hour, your ass was parking in the dirt lots north of the stadium and walking all the way across campus in 115-degree heat if there wasn’t any room on the campus shuttle.

      1. Yeah, similar at UCF — you were walking from the stadium if you got there after 8am or so. Less heat than AZ, but more humidity. Most people seemed to just stay on campus once they were there.

        In picking classes, you had to look at the time of day and location on campus. In some cases it was impossible to get from one class to the other in the 10 minutes they allowed you. I ended up planning my schedule around parking most semesters. On the plus side, I found taking night and summer classes to be the best way to get around parking — and I didn’t have to get out of bed before 11am.

  8. Her undergrad degree was in biomedical engineering, so she could have been making good money these past 6 years.


  9. My freshman dorm did look a bit like Cabrini Green, come to think of it.…..hall.shtml

    The coeds were stored in the first 3 stories so they didn’t have to take long rides up the elevator with those of us with the better view.

    1. Beaver Hall, eh?

  10. My alma mater went from mandatory freshmen year dorm stays to mandatory two year stays. They built the buildings while I was there and they are a complete clusterfuck of poor planning and oversized amenities.

    The first year they were open, one of them dropped the full capacity of the sprinkler systems on a floor three times (tanks on roof). Non-recessed sprinkler heads and frisbees don’t mix.

    1. Non-recessed sprinkler heads and frisbees don’t mix.

      These sprinklers don’t mix with “hall hockey” either. Or so I’ve been told.

  11. A lot of colleges require students to live on campus for at least a couple of years.

    Don’t want any of that filthy lucre destroying the lives of honest hard working people NOT affiliated with the Institution.

    That would be like letting people leave your football stadium at halftime to run across the street for a hot dog and a beer.

  12. I posted this in a thread over the weekend:

    The worst sob story ever?

    Jake Stevens isn’t a typical college student. When the 19-year-old mechanical engineering major isn’t in class or working a full-time job at an automotive company, he spends most of his time worrying about where he’ll sleep next.

    “It’s kind of stressful,” says Stevens, who grew up in Tampa Bay, Fla. “If I’m working really late at school, I’ll just take a nap in one of the computer labs or something. If I can get out early enough, I’ll go to a friend’s house.”

    Even after he maxes out his federal student loan allotment, Pell grant, scholarships and the college fund his mother painstakingly built from the time he was in diapers, Stevens is still thousands of dollars short of meeting tuition requirements at his private Flint, Mich., engineering school.

    1. Jake Stevens

      Well, I read that as Jada. Hm. I don’t like the implications of that.

    2. Cripes. Yeah, dumbass. It’s not like there aren’t good engineering schools in the state of Florida or anything.

      Completely in his situation of his own choice. But, like the housing crisis, people are given incentives to make the wrong choice (still wishing I’d bought for the massive amount the bank said I could borrow instead of borrowing around half of that. I’d have a nicer house that I couldn’t afford, but I would’ve gotten bailed out.)

    3. Florida has some of the most affordable public colleges in the country, so why not go to an expensive private college on the Great Lakes?

    4. The worst sob story ever?

      Do you forget 2008-09?

      All of those poor downtrodden people who bought million dollar houses that they made a couple of payments on before defaulting? Suddenly having to consider selling the jet ski that they got by going negative amortization.

      These poor, innocent victims of evil predatory lenders must never be forgotten.

  13. Well you don’t want someone’s precious snowflake living like proles while studying for their degree in liberal arts, English, puppetry, or cultural/womyn’s/useless studies, do you?!

    1. Is this a trick question?

    2. Is this a trick question?

  14. OT: Did Hope Solo just cross to the wrong side of the hot/crazy line?

    KIRKLAND, Wash. — U.S. women’s soccer star goalkeeper Hope Solo was arrested at a suburban Seattle home early Saturday on suspicion of assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew, but her attorney insisted that Solo herself was a victim in the altercation.

    1. As she’s near the top of the “hot” scale, it would be difficult for her to cross to the wrong side of the line. She’s getting close, but she’s not over the line quite yet.

    2. Well, at least she lives in Kirkland and not somewhere like Renton.

      1. Or Lakewood.

        Her husband, Jerramy Stevens, is from Lacey…former TE in the NFL. His reputation in this area since high school is that he’s an abusive, violent piece of crap. Shortly before the wedding, he got arrested for smacking her around.

        Considering that she got married to him just a few hours after he got out of jail, she’s probably been crazy a long time.

    3. You’re confused, Brett: The hot/crazy line is a linear correlation. The value of Y is dictated by X.


        1. CAUSATION!

        2. YES, IT DOES.

      2. The ACCEPTABLE value of Y is dictated by X. There is no reason that new information can’t change a given datapoint in a later measurement.

        1. At a certain level of hotness, acceptable craziness reaches infinity I think.

          1. You must be a masochist. Having dated a smoking hot bipolar woman, my line goes the other way. There is a crazy beyond which I couldn’t tolerate. Luckily, my wife is way over hot for the amount of crazy she puts out.

            1. I’m just sayin’ I don’t care how crazy Mila Kunis is, I’d still hit it.

    4. “assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew”

      Not Han!

  15. Old school Kennedy always cheers me up

  16. Geez… I was stuck in a 10×14′ room with TWO other people. Good ol’ Ohio U. Spoiled brats. Oh yeah, our entire hallway shared one bathroom.

  17. Multi-million dollar ‘diversity’ centers, entire agencies that do nothing but count cultural beans, african-american studies degrees, sports facilities that rival professional facilities, dorms nicer than many peoples homes, fantastic dining facilities…gee, I can’t figure out why a college education costs so much. Must be some rich greedy guy somewhere raising those prices.

    1. I know. Shit like this makes me retch. Very glad I’ve been out of college for more than 20 years, and never have to go back.

  18. The problem with forgiving debt is it programs bad behavior. I had plenty of friends write off a house while we sucked it up. Frustrating stuff knowing I’m paying for my decisions … And the decisions of others.

    1. We sure are paying for the decisions of others. When I refi’d a few years ago, the Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac “recovery fee” part of my total fees was about $600. Don’t recall what the percentage is, but everyone getting a mortgage or refinancing post-bubble gets to pay it.

      I’d just like to let irresponsible, parasite mofos who walked away from their mortgages know that they still owe me $600, as far as I’m concerned.

  19. My idea is that the interest rate for a student loan should reflect the unemployment rate of people with the major sought by the student.

    So electrical engineers would have a student loan interest rate of about 3.7% for loans taken out this year, since the unemployment rate for EEs is about 3.7%.

    Cultures and Civilization majors would be able to get student loans, so long as they don;t mind paying 21.4%.

    Accounting majors would pay about 6.6% while education majors pay about 8.6%.

    Geneticists get that low low rate of 0% but Art & Design majors would owe about 12.7%.

    Funding higher education with tax dollars makes no sense at all when you fund everything equally, regardless gluts and almost certain unemployment for worthless majors. Investing in areas where we have shortages, represented by lower than average unemployment rates, at least makes some sense.

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