TAMPA, Fla. ― Tanning beds, putting greens and lazy rivers. No, these aren’t luxury retirements homes. They’re the upscale dorms that some Florida universities are using to lure students to campus.
The University of South Florida is planning a $134 million mixed-use housing village with shops, private rooms, a gym, restaurant and pool. The University of North Florida’s Osprey Fountains dorms include a theme-park style lazy river and karaoke stage. The new Florida Polytechnic University in Lakeland is in the process of building a second set of dorms where students have access to game rooms, an in-unit washer and drier, gyms, private bathrooms and modern kitchens. Prices for new upscale dorms around the state can run $2,410 to $5,000 a semester.
Florida’s 12 state universities must charge roughly the same tuition, so they can’t rely on pricing alone to give them a competitive edge. That’s why experts say campus amenities like fancy dorm rooms are key to recruiting and retaining students.
“It’s become a sort of standard of living that a significant percentage of the student population can afford, so the students come in expecting much better accommodations,” said Byron Moger, a student housing trends expert with commercial real estate company Cushman & Wakefield.
The Tampa Tribune reports many of the higher-end dorms are run by private developers, allowing experienced companies to bear the financial risks of building the projects, plus streamline daily operations once the dorms are built to help keep universities’ costs low.
“Many institutions are turning to public-private partnerships with experienced private-sector developers for both development expertise and efficiency and for creative ways to finance and in some cases operate these new housing communities,” said Jeff Jones, principal developer with the Birmingham-based Capstone Development Partners. “Institutions understand that to a degree, their on-campus housing needs to be competitive with highly amenitized apartment communities that might otherwise draw students off campus.”