Column: Lavish college living may have consequences

I wrote a column published in today’s paper about the dramatic change in college students’ standards of living in recent years. Here’s an excerpt:

I’m not that old, but I’m old enough to remember when going to college meant roughing it.

When I moved into Mathews Hall at South Dakota State University in the fall of 1997, my room was sparsely furnished. In fact, it wasn’t all that different from a prison cell.

As I recall, the room was tiny, with cold, tile floors and concrete-block walls. It had no air-conditioning and was outfitted with only the basics for its two occupants: two beds, two sets of drawers, two desks and a phone hookup. Our one luxury was cable TV, which I think we splurged for out of our own pockets. There was one laundry facility and one kitchen for the entire building. Both were in the basement.

Just 13 years later, things have changed dramatically. Going to SDSU these days appears to me like attending a four- (or five- or six-) year-long business convention at a luxury resort.

Click here for the rest, and please share your thoughts.

8 thoughts on “Column: Lavish college living may have consequences

  1. And SDSU is not unique. Just one of the many factors of attracting students in a competitive environment that drives the cost of education beyond inflation. I remember going to a state-supported school in the early 70′s and was outraged by $18/credit hour!

  2. Awesome column. As a “brownie” (residing in Brown Hall) for two years, I remember the four-floor walk up, the open showers and the long treks to Larson Commons or the Union to grab a bite to eat. I also remember the “community” we created when half of the SDSU Pride got sick in Wisconsin, and half of the bathroom stalls were set aside for that purpose. But, again that was a time before cell phones (I had a car bag phone) and wifi. I guess Seth this is one of the “war” stories we can tell our kids.

    Go Jacks!!!

  3. Back in the day when I went to DWU (I won’t say how long ago) I could carry all I needed in a car with room to spare – clothes, a couple pair of shoes, a desk lamp, a radio, and paper, pencils, etc. And I had a $200 scholarship which was a good amount back then. Now it wouldn’t cover a book!! Yes, there was the laundry and kitchen in the basement, and one TV in the basement on which we watched coverage of Kennedy’s assasination (guess I just blew my age thing). When my kids went to school at SDSU and USD, it took a horse trailer to move them in and out!! My nephew’s roommate as a freshman this year is coming with hsi own flatscreen TV! Where are some of these kids going to go to move up later when they have so much now? My generation had nowhere to go but up!

  4. Two and a half years in Hansen, 1.5 in Wecota Annex — who needs amenities? And elevators will only make it easier to get sheep to 4th floor Hansen. :-)

    Seriously, I thought having my own room away from my parents was all the amenity I needed… though we all could have done without Charlie cooking his “aromatic” ranch chili in his dorm room. Strong stuff!

  5. way back in the 60s the biggest check i ever wrote was for my first semester in college…584 dollars…tuition and room and board…books were another 25 or so…
    far cry from today….and no fridge, lofts, tv or other amenities. just a “stereo” record player….and a clock radio.
    ah. the good old days.

  6. And you look so young, Seth. I can talk of signing out of dorms, curfew, signing in with an assistant on hand in the event one consumed that dreaded alcohol, no apartments off campus. Oh, no kitchenette’s, bathroom down the hall, no boys/girls allowed beyond the visiters area. The only appliance was the radio, or record player. TV in your rooms………don’t you know you were/are going there to study? Actually, in the stone age, we did not have TV’s in many homes.
    Oh, those were the days!

  7. Well, I last stepped foot in Brown Hall about five years ago, and don’t worry Sarah – it hadn’t changed much! I don’t think it changed at all, in fact. I toured SDSU with my Dad (class of ’81) in 2002 and he told me that the dorms hadn’t changed much since he left.

    I must take issue with Seth’s use of my most hated education-related phrase: the real world. I hated it used in graduation speeches. I thought, “I’ve been living in the real world, where have you been?”

    The truth is, some people’s version of the real world is another’s paradise. That could have not been more evident during my first year of college. I was in the extreme minority – paying my own way without ANY outside help at all. Not only did most of my fellow students have a relative footing the bill, but they had flat screens, x-boxes, health insurance through their folks, car paid and insured through their parents, and a monthly stipend.

    The “lavish lifestyle” they lead is unlikely to end with graduation. They’ll probably be free of student loans, or debt from cars or health-related problems, so they feel less pressure to accept whatever job comes their way. Maybe the parents will even help them into their first home. People who are treated that way in college are probably going to be “subsidized” their whole lives.

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