New Crop of Luxury College Residences Earns an A-Plus for Amenities



Gensler/Ryan Gobuty



Forget dingy dorm rooms with communal bathrooms (if you can). Today’s college students are living the good life with amenities such as rooftop pools, private theaters, gaming rooms, and even fully wired outdoor terraces with grilling stations and cabanas.

The building boom in housing complexes across the country is extending to universities, offering resort-style living for students both off and on campus. Developers are meeting the ongoing demand for luxury options by either leasing on-campus plots to build sleek apartment buildings or erecting trendy rental communities just at the campus edge. Meanwhile, many universities are building dorms with flashy amenities as a way to attract students who might be interested in other schools.

“More than anything else, the amenities race has just come from competition,” says Dan Oltersdorf, chief learning officer at Campus Advantage, which manages about 70 student housing communities around the country. “With the amount of investment that’s gone into student housing over the last 10 years, off-campus developments are trying to outdo each other, so we’re seeing lazy river pools, golf simulators, climbing walls.”

Duke University has added luxe amenities to some of its dorms, but doesn’t charge students more to live in those halls, says Joe Gonzales, dean of housing and residential life. The Edens Quad residence hall, which houses about 550 students, features a video game pavilion that includes a virtual reality room. At the school’s brand-new Trinity House, for 250 first-year students, residents have access to a chef’s kitchen with granite counters, two ovens, two refrigerators, and a fancy dining table to share their meals.

Putting such extras within residential buildings, rather than across campus, “makes it easier for students to take advantage” of them, Gonzales says.

These things “help people connect,” he adds. “And it adds to the particular character of that housing community.”

Universities building impressive new dorms are doing so with an eye to attracting students and, importantly, keeping them living on campus, Oltersdorf says.

“There’s tons of data that shows that students who live on campus have higher GPAs, graduate at higher rates, and are more satisfied with their college experience,” he says.

What today’s luxury college living looks like

The newer luxury housing complexes are situated to suit the younger generation’s preference for living in a central, walkable location, very close to or on campus, with ready access to ride- or bike-sharing, says Brooks Howell, the residential leader for Gensler, a San Francisco–based architecture and design firm that has worked on student housing projects in College Station, TX, and Tempe, AZ, among many other locations.

Many students also prefer more of a co-living concept, Howell says.

“The larger suite-style apartments, with four to six bedrooms, are very popular, where you have your own bathroom, and a shared kitchen and living area,” he explains. “And you can move out of your apartment to work in larger study areas and outdoor spaces.”

But Oltersdorf and others believe the amenities race has begun to play itself out.

“We’re seeing a pulling away from that, as students want more areas to study and other features to help them be successful,” he says. “And there’s more of a focus on good value.”

There’s also more interest in green housing, says Jason Wills, the chief marketing officer at American Campus Communities, one of the country’s largest student housing developers with more than 200 projects under management both on and off university campuses.

In the future, more buildings will incorporate recycling, composting, and solar power, Wills says.

“The current generation really appreciates that,” he says. “It’s definitely a direction that the on-campus communities are moving in.”

Here are some examples of today’s college living at its finest:

Aspire College Station at Texas A&M University

The pool at Aspire College Station is one of its high-end amenities.

Gensler/Ryan Gobuty


Completed last year, this 816-bed high-rise at the edge of campus in College Station, TX, offers apartments for one to six students. Kitchens feature white quartz countertops. Penthouse units have vaulted ceilings and accent walls. Monthly rents range from $600 to $1,400 per student.

The complex is stuffed with amenities, including a 4,400-square-foot fitness center, outdoor cabanas with TVs, an outdoor kitchen, and a penthouse sky deck. But the biggest wow factor is on the sixth floor: a giant pool deck where students gather on game days to watch the Aggies on the Jumbotron.

Edens Quad at Duke University

The renovation of this complex of 1960s residence halls in Durham, NC, several years ago transformed them into light and airy spaces with lots of community areas for studying—and playing.

The quad’s 550 students can burn off stress in the Bolt gaming pavilion, which has 10 separate gaming computers for individuals or teams to play and two larger screens with gaming systems. Ample seating allows students to watch other students compete.

“It really has proven to be a very social area,” says Duke’s Gonzales. The complex also features a virtual reality room where students can put on goggles and experiment with some 50 games, as well as a fitness center and a yoga studio.

Sterling 920 Terrace at Arizona State University

Student housing at Sterling 920 includes a state-of-the-art fitness facility.

Gensler/Ryan Gobuty


The website for Sterling 920 Terrace urges students to “wave goodbye to the dorm life and get ready for the good life.” This brand-new apartment complex, just outside the Arizona State University campus in Tempe, isn’t skimping on amenities.

The complex boasts a large pool area lined with resort-style lounge chairs, with a hot tub, hammocks, and a fire pit; a two-story fitness center; a tanning terrace; and a private garage parking. The furnished apartments have keyless entry systems, bedrooms with individual locks, and kitchens with granite countertops. Students are even welcome to bring their pets, as the complex has a fenced park.

Monthly rents range from $850 to $1,400 per student.

Plaza Verde at the University of California, Irvine

Student housing goes luxurious at Plaza Verde.

American Campus Communities


This 1,400-bed apartment community, under construction on the UC Irvine campus, is representative of the newer trend toward green living. It is American Campus Communities’ first “net zero energy” community, meaning it will be built to such energy-efficient standards that all of the complex’s energy needs will be met by on-site solar.

In keeping with that green mission, the complex will have shower heads and toilets that use less water, a reflective roof that absorbs less heat, and a recycling center. And the amenities aren’t just for the environment. The complex will also have a fully equipped fitness center, outdoor kitchen, rec room, 18 study rooms, and a grassy courtyard. Monthly rents start at $790.

Osprey Fountains at the University of North Florida

One of the earlier high-amenity dorms to hit a college campus, Osprey Fountains, which opened in 2009, requires students in its four- and six-bed suites to share baths. But the 1,000-student complex in Jacksonville, FL, isn’t lacking for anything else.

Students can get a workout in the lap pool or chill in an inner tube on the lazy river. The grounds also feature tennis, volleyball, and basketball courts; a running track; and a putting green. If students get tired of playing, the complex also has its own library for, you know, studying.

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Source: Housing Trends Feed