Is extravagant off-campus housing distracting to students?

Published: Friday, June 21 2013 4:45 p.m. MDT

In this photo taken Nov. 16, 2011, Jesse Yeh poses on the University of California campus with the Occupy Cal encampment at Sproul Plaza in the background in Berkeley, Calif. All those college students buried in debt you keep hearing about? Yeh will do just about anything to make sure hes not one of them. He uses the University of California-Berkeley library instead of buying textbooks. He scrounges for free food and campus events and occasionally skips meals. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Eric Risberg, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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Upscale off-campus housing is gaining popularity in some college towns, and it has some educators worried.

John Eligon’s article “In student housing, luxuries overshadow studying” for The New York Times chronicles the growth and development of what Arthur J. Lidsky, president of Dober Lidsky Mathey, a campus-planning consultancy, called off-campus “social environments.”

“It takes away from sort of a community of learners,” Mathey told Eligon, “and it creates more of a separate living environment that doesn’t support that mission.”

These housing complexes offer spas, tanning salons and large pools for their tenants, which are predominantly students. Rates at such complexes typically start at $700 per student, which is roughly twice as much as older housing in college areas like Columbia in New York.

Eligon said, however, that even at such high rates, the modern housing complexes are sometimes cheaper than on-campus housing. At Columbia University, for example, living in the dorms adds about $1,000 per month to tuition.

“I don’t think it’s doing bad in the world to provide a nicer space for college students to live and study and rest and play,” Greg Henry, chief executive of the Texas based housing developer Aspen Heights, told Eligon.

In fact, some tenants believe these newer, more high-tech developments facilitate their education, not distract from it.

“It lessens the stress,” one student told Eligon. “You just feel more comfortable in your environment.”

Read more about student housing on The New York Times .

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