Inside as pricey new residence hall, Purdue University students enjoy maid service and private bathrooms. Each room has its own climate-control panel, and students don't even have to confer about the settings. There are no roommates.
The communal lounges - there are two on every floor - have 47-inch flat-screen TVs, entertainment centers custom-designed by Amish carpenters, free Wi-Fi and kitchenettes with ceramic tile.
For these amenities and more, students or their parents pay a premium of $5,000 per year above typical room and board costs. Yet in the depths of a recession, the 356 spots at First Street Towers residential hall sold out in two days, in part because of generational changes in parenting and in young adults' expectations about privacy and privation.
Increasingly, colleges are building their own luxury accommodations to keep students on campus, said James Baumann, a spokesman for the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International.
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For the millennial generation - born between 1982 and 2003 - sharing space doesn't always come easy. Privacy isn't negotiable.
"They didn't grow up sharing a bedroom, maybe even sharing a bathroom," Baumann said. "When it comes time for college, they anticipate a continuation of that."
Ashley Hendzell, 19, a sophomore, takes advantage of her autonomy at First Street Towers by liberally spritzing her room with the eau de cologne Ralph Hot, keeping 30 pairs of shoes at the ready and jamming the bookshelf with every episode of "The O.C." and "Dawson's Creek."
"I've never had to worry about anyone else," said Hendzell, whose two siblings are several years older. "I've always been alone."
Tom Cheesman, architect of Purdue's $52 million First Street Towers, said the residence hall is "essentially a hotel." He said it is especially attractive to "helicopter parents who want to send their son or daughter to college campus but give them all the luxuries of home."
The demand for more posh undergraduate housing is growing across college campuses, contradicting general economic trends toward simplifying and cutting back.
This fall, Boston University unveiled a 960-bed luxury dorm overlooking the Charles River that comes with walk-in closets, large private bathrooms and washers and dryers programmed to alert students via computer when their sheets are dry. Rooms in the elegant tower also run about $5,000 more than a traditional room.
"Students want beauty, and they should have beauty," Kenneth Elmore, BU's dean of students, told the Boston Globe.
At Arizona State University, non-freshmen can apply for a spot at Vista Del Sol, an on-campus, 1,841-bed facility run in partnership with a private developer. Billed as a first-class resort, the complex has a heated pool, a hot tub, a sand volleyball court and four tanning booths. Units come with "lavishly appointed" kitchens, washers and dryers, cable and Internet access. Rent for a one-person efficiency is about $1,000 a month and requires a 12-month lease - well above the $6,500 per academic year for a traditional one-bedroom on campus.
"Schools recognize that (nicer) residence halls are part of the recruitment process," Baumann said. "This led to what we call, tongue-in-cheek, 'the amenities war,'" he said. "'Dorm' is a four-letter word."
Hotel living comes at a price. At First Street Towers, the rooms start around $13,800 per academic year, including at least 10 dining-hall meals a week. The same room-and-board arrangement in a standard double room is about $5,000 less.
"You are going to be in debt anyway, might as well enjoy," Hendzell said, explaining her decision to upgrade.
Tom Paczolt, the tower's general manager, conceded that the concept "may seem like coddling," but the market demand is clear.
"Boomers really want it better for their kids," he said.
Purdue senior Rob Michalski said he'd had it with roommates, including those who smelled "so horrible."
Before classes began, the 22-year-old hauled his own wall-to-wall carpeting to First Street Towers and installed a 32-inch plasma TV.
"This is a lot better than with a roommate," he said.
Linda Rubinowitz, a clinical psychologist at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, noted that leapfrogging into a more mature style of living fits the expectations of some millennials, who want "things to happen very quickly for them."
"They are really moving it to the next level," she said. But she cautioned that some students may not forge the life skills learned through sharing tight living quarters.