Universities have the unique challenge of coming up with new ways to entice students to live on-campus. Each university must also try to beat the competition, which forces them to quickly become creative.
Some colleges try renovating their living spaces. Some try giving each individual additional personal space. Some try to implement more efficient food plans.
But regardless of previous improvements, each college has found that each passing year brings about technical advancements that escalate the students' expectations.
Special to the Tribune Chronicle / Kent State University
A dorm room at Kent State University is shown.
Although not all colleges can be successful at keeping up with these changes, there are universities that truly aim toward meeting every possible student need. Youngstown State and Kent State universities are two such colleges.
Youngstown State has tried to perfect the dorm experience. "We try to make it more than a dorm," said Danielle Meyer, currently in her 10th year as the director of housing and
residence life at Youngstown State University. "Youngstown tries to go above and beyond what most dorms offer so that our students aren't simply going to class and going to sleep."
Each room at YSU has an individual air conditioner, basic cable, wireless access and basic utilities included with the room fee.
"I think a lot of other students are looking for the same things," said Abbie Twyford, a Youngstown State University senior. "They want a comfortable living area, access to technology and social interaction that living off-campus might not provide as readily."
"The biggest thing for me is the size of the room, as we obviously don't want to be cramped," said Jeremy King, a Youngstown State University junior. "The university just got brand-new furniture. Most people think university furniture is ... blah. Everything is mobile. You can set it up any way you want."
Twyford said she chose to live on-campus because of YSU's reasonable cost plus its proximity to her home.
"Once I got (there), I liked the size of the dorms and the sense of community," said Twyford.
"Youngstown is really creative in setting stuff up," King said. "They definitely go the extra mile. They truly want you to succeed, and it most definitely shows. Every semester, they send out a survey to ask how they could make things better. They are constantly aware of what their students think and really go at it."
Kent State University - which this semester will be housing 6,200 students - offers varying types of housing options with their 24 dorm halls and nine-building apartment complex.
In the past 10 years, the students coming in have definitely evolved in their tastes and needs, said Betsy Joseph, the director of the Kent State resident services. "I know the technological aspect is a big part of it. I just saw my 3-and-a-half-year-old niece using an iPhone and knowing what she was doing," she said. "Our students come to us with technology already being a huge part of their lives."
Joseph said that Kent has tried to keep up with and meet these needs as quickly and efficiently as possible. In the past 10 years, Kent has moved from Internet connection to wireless connection, a micro-fridge per room, larger dorms, more public spaces, and new furniture that isn't nailed to the floor. They have also built eight new dorm halls in the last six years.
"There have been many technical and physical changes to how the college looks and feels to students," Joseph said.
"Kent is always keeping on top of the needs of the students and we will always be looking for a way to increase their pleasure and comfortability," Joseph said. "We will continue to listen to their needs and give them opportunities to tell us what they like and what they don't like about our program."
The biggest positive reaction from the Kent State student body came from the bathroom renovations. Joseph said that in all her five years of working at Kent, the private bathrooms have been the most welcomed change. "We recognize that today's college students don't want to share a bathroom with the 35 other students on their floor," Joseph said. "We now have rooms where only two students have to share a bathroom. It's much more private and comfortable. During this summer's orientation program, we found that the new freshmen were really excited to see the bathrooms renovations. The bathroom changes ultimately improved the overall satisfaction with the student body staying on-campus."
Another important necessity for Kent is the state-of-the-art security. The master resident renovation plan also included completely discarding the metal keys and moving on to a key card system. "Every area is locked 24/7, so the only way to gain access is with a key card," Joseph said. "We definitely have a more secure institution now."
With the recession still hitting hard, Kent State University has found it necessary to raise the price of tuition. "We've worked really hard to keep our rates as low as possible, but even so we have been forced to implement a 4 percent rate increase per year," Joseph said. "But as the tuition prices go up, so we try to match that price with additional amenities."