Many American high-school students worry about getting into college. And their parents worry about paying the tuition bills.
And - except for crème de la crème schools that can pick and choose whom to admit - many colleges are worried, too. They already compete with each other to attract star athletes, and now they?re vigorously competing to attract the brightest students, the wealthiest applicants, and the top minority candidates as well.
To win the recruiting contest, they?re offering extra inducements in hopes that superstar students will choose THEM rather than the campus down the road.
Colleges used to offer scholarships and low-cost loans to sweeten their appeal. Now, they are laying out a smorgasbord of lifestyle goodies.
Boston University, for instance, has a big pool with a wave machine, so young scholars can jump waves with their boogie boards. A University of Houston facility offers a hot tub and a rock-climbing wall. Massages are available at the student union of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.
Davidson College in North Carolina offers students free laundry facilities. Students can ski for free at a resort owned by Michigan Tech. And on lots of campuses, free iPod portable music players, cable television service, and computers in dorm rooms have become standard perks.
Given the average $10,000-a-year annual tuition and fees for even a state-supported college, you might think these trifles are bit like the free cup holder that the salesman says he?ll throw in if you?ll buy a new car from HIM.
Americans who got through school in an earlier day can only shake their heads at the extra inducements that colleges are using to lure students. A lot of them would have to admit that all it would have taken to get them to enroll somewhere was a friendly neighborhood beer hall that served pizza.