Archive for Thursday, September 15, 2005

The suite life of college students

September 15, 2005

Most college students experience the dorm life at some time during their college years. Even if it is only a semester or a year's stay in the luxurious living conditions, it's almost a right of passage for a college student.

I still remember the names and faces of my dorm mates and the many memories of my life there. It's something I would not change if I had to do it over. Well, maybe.

On a recent business trip to Richmond, Va., I stayed in a downtown "three-star upscale" hotel with amenities that included a 14th floor rooftop pool with a fabulous view of the city.

When I was checking in, I noticed there were a lot of young people around. I assumed there might be a conference in that hotel. Later that evening I asked the hotel staff what conference they were attending. To my surprise, I was told they were college students from a nearby college being housed in that hotel.

College students living in a fancy hotel? Now that's a first. I learned there were 120 students who were staying there because of some shortsightedness in planning by the college. I never got a clear answer of what actually caused them to not have a place in the dorm.

The students I talked to all had a different excuse given to them, ranging from the college never receiving the application to increased enrollment.

The manager on duty told me that was the first time the hotel had done anything like that. Since the campus was a mere four blocks away, they agreed to assign two floors for these students to stay through the year. The students paid the normal cost they would pay to live in the dorms, but were able to enjoy all the facilities and amenities of the hotel. The manager said the only difference in the service they provided was that housekeeping was done once a week instead of every day.

Still, imagine having your sheets washed and fresh towels every week. Laundry day for these kids just got easier. While normal meals in the hotel are exorbitant, the hotel was preparing to set up a student menu to accommodate the need. Hotel food is not the best, but it beats dorm food any day. And for these kids to pay $5 for lunch at a fancy hotel instead of eating at the dorm, that's a great deal.

If that was too much, the hotel had supplied each of the students' rooms with a microwave and a small refrigerator. Ramen noodles would be a good option.

I got a chance to talk to some of the students to get their perspective on living in the hotel. Most of them said it was very cool and the thing they liked the most was the linen service. At least once a week, they said, their room was tidy. They were not subject to any special rules and were able to have parties in their room and friends over to use the pool.

I stayed in a room below the designated college floor and didn't hear any loud music or noises that are common in the dorms. These kids seemed to behave themselves, which was an observation confirmed by the manager.

I walked through one of the hallways, and for the most part, it looked like a normal hotel floor. Only one door had a poster or message board. By the elevator, there were a few flyers with notices to the students and a couple of student activities calendars.

I later learned there was a resident advisor for each floor that oversaw the needs of the students, much like in a dorm.

The one complaint they had was the lack of high-speed Internet service in the rooms. Most of them used the one computer in the business office, with a 10-minute time limit and someone was always waiting in line. Many of them, however, chose to walk to the college if they needed extended online time.

These students certainly won't have the same experience as living in the dorms, but from their reaction, I don't think they mind. If I had this opportunity when I was in college, I would have definitely tried it.

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