Luxury University: Colleges Offer Water Parks, Upscale Dorms

Some schools justify the high cost of building stunning amenities to attract and retain students.
6:58 | 10/14/14

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Transcript for Luxury University: Colleges Offer Water Parks, Upscale Dorms
You probably heart about skyrocketing college tuition. But what you may not know is what many colleges are actually doing with all that money. Pouring it into perks. Upscale eateries to top of the line movie theaters and even water parks. Students living it up in luxury, dorms like never before. Here's ABC's Mara schiavocampo. Reporter: It's a water park that rivals even those at top resorts. A 25-person hot tub. A wet deck for tanning. A diving well. Water slide. All wrapped within a 64-foot lazy river. But this isn't Turks and caicos. It's Lubbock, Texas. And the two-acre water park is just one section of the student recreation center at Texas tech university. I just heard of a couple of friends that go to universities that just have lap pools, kind of deals. And it's just cool to tell them about our luxurious river. Reporter: With competition for tuition money ramping up, schools now justify the high cost of construction as important for recruiting and keeping students. And at Texas tech, the $8.4 million water complex is doing its job. I was like, sweet, a pool. Reporter: Enrollment this year is at an all-time high. I wanted to come here for my major, specifically, but when I saw they had a lazy river, that moved it up on my top priority list. Reporter: So, even with the average tuition nearing $40,000 and student loan debt topping 1$1.2 trillion, there's no stopping colleges from building amen tips once unimaginable on campuses. At the top of the wish list? The luxury dorm room. The inspiration for high end living began with offcampus housing popular with college students. It's just right around this corner, so, it's not too far from the elevator. Reporter: We asked tori, a senior at university of texas-austin to give us a tour of the suite she shares with two fellow students. Let's take a look. So, this is my kitchen area. And everything is stainless steel and granite countertops. Dishwasher. And then, this is my living room. Everything here was included, all the furniture was, so, I have the couch, the table. I just added the pillows and the wall decorations to give it more of a homey feel. Okay, this is my dorm room here. And it's really nice because it gives me a little sense of privacy. I have my own room. I have my own bathroom, my own closet. So, this is my closet right here. It's nice to have a walk-in closet you can walk into. Look at all your shoes, have everything available to you. Reporter: Gone are the boomer dorm rooms with bunk beds, cinder block walls and communal bathrooms. Today, student housing is more likely to resemble tori's unit. An offcampus luxury high rise next to the university of texas-austin. The privately owned residence hall may just be the dorm of the future. Similar housing has already been built on campuses from the university of Colorado to Arizona state. 100% of the units here are currently occupied by students. And it is tailored to their needs. At a cost on par with on-campus housing, students get a game room, billiards, ping-pong and free arcade games. Just down the hall is a pry vault theater with a giant projection screen. Upstairs, you'll find a 24,000 square foot fitness center. All this before you even step foot into your room. For tori who grew up with their own bedrooms, privacy is paramount. She remembers struggling in her freshman year when she had to share a room. It was a shock, to go to a room that I had to share with was really different because I just wanted the whole room to be mine and put my stuff everywhere. Reporter: And when she moved into her own space, she says her grades improved. I don't have to worry about, oh, you know, is my roommate going to come home, is she going to want to talk to me for 20 minutes. To be able to come in here and close my door really helps me study. Reporter: A suite like tori's runs about $17,000 an academic year. A comparable room on campus costs around $15,500. But factor in the unlimited meal plan, free gym membership and other amenities, and students say it's a better deal. My dad crunches the Numbers a lot and after crunching his Numbers, he thought this was cheaper. Reporter: For colleges and universities strapped with limited budgets, the private sector provided the answer. Student housing was really ignored by the main stream real estate industry for four decades. It was the only segment where consumers weren't given the nod earn products they deserve. Reporter: Sensing a business opportunity, pry vault developers like American campus communities started teaming up with schools. We're able to develop these modern communities at a fraction of the price that a college or university would and on an accelerated timeline. And we're not using taxpayer dollars. Reporter: The company leases land from the school and then builds and manages resident halls. Drexel university in downtown Philadelphia is one school that's embraced this business model. And has built on-campus housing modeled after the luxury building in Austin. In is a great opportunity to allow the school to not have to invest its own financial resources to make that happen. Reporter: Drexel already has two upscale residents halls on campus and one more, the largest so far, on track to open in 2015. And like the house in Austin, the Drexel dorms resemble swan kip apartments with killer views. At this particular building, there's even the added bonus of a golf simulation room and a shake shack on the ground floor. At most colleges, freshmen are still required to live on campus in traditional dorms. We have three toilets for 15 girls. But after the first year, they are able to put their names on the wait list. Back at Texas tech, calls have been coming in from other schools about how they can build their own water playground. In fact, dozens of colleges have invested in elaborate water parks in recent years. University of Missouri has an aquatic center that boasts an indoor water fall and a grotto inspired by that more infamous one at the playboy mansion. Giving today's students the kind of college experience their parents could only dream about. That's one of the best things for my success here is, I love where I live. And if you love where you live, then you'll be successful. Reporter: For "Nightline," Mara schiavocampo, ABC news, new York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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