With growing freshman classes (up 28 percent in the last five years at the University of Missouri, for instance) universities are relying more and more on private off-campus developments to house their students.
Unlike on-campus housing, which is more modest and includes traditional learning facilities like classrooms and resident faculty, the off-campus housing trend appears to eclipse learning altogether through recreation and relaxation. Elaborate game rooms, beach volleyball courts, outdoor pools and workout machinery that integrates email, all make for an isolated, purportedly stress-free environment where students can socialize and entertain the notion of skipping classes altogether.
At the University of Missouri's Columbia campus, private developers are housing over 3,800 students in units built over the last two years. Rental rates are competitive with the on-campus living costs, yet double the cost of older housing in the area, leading to a cultural divide.
Apart from these culture wars and the debate over how much learning is lost in these off-campus environments, there is concern among market analysts and university officials that this is just another bubble about to burst.