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From cable TV to coffee shops, ‘amenities arms race’ is waged


At home in Valdosta, Ga., Derek Broome has cable television and high-speed Internet in his bedroom.
As the high school senior contemplates attending a Christian university — Freed-Hardeman and Faulkner are his top choices — he said he’s definitely checking out the living quarters.
“You see nice things, you have a nice place to stay, it definitely is a big incentive for students,” said Broome, 18, a student at Georgia Christian School.

By Bobby Ross Jr.
The Christian Chronicle

November 1, 2005

At home in Valdosta, Ga.,Derek Broome has cable television and high-speed Internet in his bedroom.

As the high schoolsenior contemplates attending a Christian university — Freed-Hardeman andFaulkner are his top choices — he said he’s definitely checking out the livingquarters.

“You see nice things,you have a nice place to stay, it definitely is a big incentive for students,”said Broome, 18, a student at Georgia Christian School.

Like Broome, BrandiSims keeps in touch with friends by e-mail and instant messaging, andfrequently uses the Internet for research and homework.

Sims, 17, a senior atthe Christian Academyof Greater St. Louis, said she’s leaning toward Harding University. At the Searcy, Ark., university, everyroom in each of 16 residence halls and apartments is equipped with high-speedInternet, cable TV and individual temperature controls.

“It definitely helps— just the convenience of it, I guess,” Sims said.

ATTRACTING AHIGH-TECH GENERATION

Broome and Sims arepart of a tech-savvy, convenience-minded generation forcing church-associateduniversities to do more than tout the benefits of a Christian education.

To attract these students,universities are embracing campus-wide wireless technology, buildingStarbucks-style coffee shops, designing apartments with individual studentrooms, and — in the case of Oklahoma Christian — giving all students laptopcomputers when they enroll, a Chronicle survey found.

“Unfortunately, weare in what I call an ‘amenities arms race’ to attract kids who had their ownbedrooms at home, grew up on computers and computer games, and have seen thenice dorms and fitness centers at even less-expensive campuses,” said RobertAndringa, president of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities,an association of 105 “Christ-centered” universities whose members includeAbilene Christian, Lipscomb and Oklahoma Christian.

THE COST OFADMISSIONS

With church-associateduniversities typically costing $16,000 to $25,000 a year, students — and theirparents — expect a certain standard of living, said Tod Martin, director ofadmissions at York College.

“If you don’t havethe buildings, it’s real hard to play in that market competitively,” saidMartin, whose York, Neb., campus plans to open two new apartment buildings —with all the marvels of the technological age — next semester.

Every university hasalways had a showcase residence hall or two, said Glenn Dillard, Harding’s topenrollment official.

“But it’s importantfor high school student guests to see where freshmen will live, not just wherethe seniors live,” Dillard said.

That’s why,admissions officials said, most universities, including Freed-Hardeman, OhioValley and Lipscomb, have renovated housing facilities or built new ones inrecent years.

At Abilene Christian,a new residence hall opened this fall — with not just student rooms, but also acoffee shop and classrooms.

At Lubbock Christian,students can sip a cappuccino at the library, then play golf on campus — when acourse under construction is finished.

A recent facelift at Rochester College added “kitchenettes” to laundryrooms to make them feel more like home. At Oklahoma Christian, students needingto wash and dry their clothes can do so without a load of quarters — theysimply swipe a card to take advantage of “online laundry service.”

JUST ONE FACTOR INSTUDENTS’ DECISIONS

But high schoolstudents interviewed by the Chronicle stressed that “amenities,” as Andringacalled them, are just one factor in their decisions.

In Broome’s case, forexample, where he goes will depend more on which university — if any — offershim a baseball scholarship. Plus, he plans to major in Bible and wants a placethat will help him grow his faith.

Sims said the qualityof Harding’s nursing program was the determining factor in her decision.

Like Sims, JenniferBarnett, also a senior at the ChristianAcademy of Greater St. Louis, spends countless hours on theInternet communicating with friends.

If Harding — whichshe plans to attend — wasn’t high-tech, that might be a problem, she said. Butsince it is, she’s more focused on other issues.

“A lot of us have apreference in whether to go to a large or small college,” said Barnett, one of14 seniors at the St. Louisschool, “and a lot of us want to go to a Christian college because there’s lesstemptation and it’s a better environment to be in.”

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