Friday, November 13, 2009

Colleges offering a taste of the good life



When I went away to college, I frankly gave very little thought to the quality of the amenities package I could expect as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania. I knew the water in the pool at the Weightman Gym was reputed to be very cold, but what fool would be sampling the waters if you could pass the mandatory swim test? Hot tub? I don’t think so. Climbing wall—well maybe, if you count getting over the brick and mortar fa├žade that surrounded the women’s dorm. Computer access? Yes, but the darn thing took up an entire city block. Parking? Not likely unless you paid off one of the proprietors of the many mob-own lots that surrounded campus. Then again, who would think of bringing a car to Philadelphia? I certainly didn’t.

But times have changed. The twenty-first century college student expects a certain quality of life. Running late to class? Can’t find a parking spot? Don’t stress: the University of Southern California (USC) offers daily valet service. You can toss the keys to an attendant Monday through Friday, 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. Or, you can make a parking reservation online for expedited service. Columbia University and Cal State Sacramento also offer some combination of valet and “premium” parking for students. New York City, I understand, but what’s the parking issue at Cal State? Then there’s Florida International University, where you can leave your car with the valet and order up a wash and wax while taking your accounting midterm or attending an anthropology lecture.

High Point University in North Carolina also offers a valet service, but ups the ante with the availability of a concierge desk, free treats from a roaming ice cream truck, and a hot tub conveniently located in the center of campus. The High Point concierge handles maintenance requests, gives restaurant recommendations, sends out dry cleaning, and provides automated wake-up calls effectively doing away with one particular excuse for missing class. It's all part of President Nido Qubein's plan to acclimate students to the good life. And judging from the happy students and pristine campus, he might be onto something.

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