-- intro:With competition for tuition money ramping up, colleges are looking for ways to set themselves apart and some have turned to investing in unimaginable campus experiences, from water parks to luxurious residence halls.
In the economic report, “College as a Country Club,” published last year by the National Bureau of Economic Research, researchers found that some colleges -- excluding elite schools like Princeton and Yale -- attract more applicants when they invest in state-of-the-art facilities like pools and rec centers.
So even though average tuition costs for four-year colleges continue to tick up year over year -- now running about $18,000 for in-state students at public universities to almost $32,000 for out-of-state students, according to College Board -- more colleges are justifying the high cost of building impressive amenities in an effort to recruit and retain students.
Here are a few universities that have tricked-out their campuses with new amenities.
quicklist:1 title:Texas Tech’s Water Park media:26169294 text:That's not a photo of a resort. This water park is part of Texas Tech University’s campus.
Located at the Lubbock, Texas-based university’s rec center, the water park includes a 25-person hot tub, a wet deck for tanning, a diving well with a water slide, all wrapped within a 64-foot-long lazy river. At $8.4 million, Texas Tech’s water complex spans two acres and is one of the largest in the country.
“The leisure pool is a great recruiting tool for the university,” said PeeWee Roberson, the managing director of rec sports at Texas Tech. “There's not a question in my mind that these junior high or high school students who come for Houston, Dallas or wherever else will see the leisure pool and want to come to Texas Tech because of that.”
Aside from the water park, the university’s rec center also includes a 53-foot climbing wall.
quicklist:2 title:University of Missouri’s Aquatic Center media:26169410 text:Texas Tech University isn’t the only college in recent years to invest in an elaborate water park.
University of Missouri, located in Columbia, Missouri, has an aquatic center that boasts an indoor waterfall and the Tiger Grotto, the cave-like swimming pool inspired by the infamous grotto at the Playboy Mansion.
quicklist:3 title:University of Akron’s Wellness Center media: text:When students at the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, want to relax they can head to the campus wellness center, which houses a spa, a warm water current channel and a vortex pool.
quicklist:3 title:Callaway House Near University of Texas-Austin media:26169126 text:The Callaway House, an off-campus luxury high-rise next to the University of Texas-Austin, is more like apartments than dorm rooms.
This privately-owned and operated residence hall is 100 percent occupied by students. It just opened last year and there is already a year-long waiting list to get in the door.
At a rent cost on par with on-campus housing, students who live in a Callaway House suite have a private bedroom with a walk-in closet, full-furnished living room and a kitchen with stainless steel appliances. The residence hall also comes with game room with billiards, ping pong and free arcade games, as well as a private theater with a giant projection screen, a 24,000-square-foot fitness center, a pool and a sun deck.
"We're able to develop these modern communities at a fraction of a price that a college and or university would and on an accelerated timeline ... and we're not using taxpayer dollars," said Bill Bayless the CEO of American Campus Communities, which owns and operates Callaway House.
quicklist:4 title:Drexel University’s Swanky Dorms media:26169699 text:Like the Calloway House in Austin, Drexel University has dorm room suites with private bedrooms, except they include the added bonus of a golf simulation room, a Shake Shack on the ground floor and a view of downtown Philadelphia.
Drexel already had two upscale residence halls on campus and one more on track to open in 2015.