The luxury suites, situated on the 25th floor, include stunning views of Boston, furnished common areas, private baths, soundproof piano rooms, a 24-hour reading room with "plush adjustable furniture befitting a first-class airport lounge" and a plasma TV-equipped media lounge. These extras are only available to 14 students and cost close $13,000 a year, $5,000 more than a standard dorm!
According to Boston University president Robert Brown, the school is just giving students what they want in an attempt to keep upperclassmen from living off campus. It's assumed that by housing more students on campus the University will relieve some tension between students and city residents.
The Boston Globe interviewed Samantha Barbosa, a senior who was selected early enough in the housing lottery to live on the 25th floor. Barbosa told the Globe,
"I applied by myself because my friends were all too cheap to live here,'' said Barbosa, who is paying for the room with student loans. "For the past three years, I lived in the lowest-priced dorms. Being a senior, I've worked really hard and I figured I deserve to live in a place like this.''So to be clear, Samantha and probably several others on the floor are financing a fancy lifestyle with student loans. Not cash, not savings, but loans; the kind that have to be paid back. So just what will a year of heavenly living cost students on Boston University's 25th floor luxury dorm in the long run?
Even if Samantha paid for the additional $5,000-a-year expense with a Federal Stafford Loan, unlikely, she will have to pay an additional $57 a month in student loans for the next 10 years for a total of $2,000 in interest and fees (According to the FinAid.org loan calculator).
For that cost a student could outfit a standard dorm with noise canceling headphones, booked time in a music studio, added a plush reading chair and a 42" HDTV and still had money to spare! Hell, you could pay for almost two years at the local community college, with the additional room-and-board costs for one year that these students are paying!
So what young Samantha really meant was that her "cheap" friends were actually smart to give a pass on such expensive digs. It's incredibly easy to think that a few extra thousand in student loans won't matter, but the reality is that once those loans enter repayment, their impact on her life will be huge.
When you combine the ignorance many students have about what their salaries and loan repayments will be post-graduation, with the attitude of financing the lifestyle they think they deserve, it's no wonder student loan debt continues to reach an all-time high, and forces graduates to postpone their lives.
I can't claim to have made the best financial decisions while I was a student, but borrowing an extra $5,000 just to live it up for a year is possibly one of the worst ways to use student loan money.
Update: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the cost was $13,000 per semester. It is actually $13,000 per year, which still adds an additional $5,000 in expenses. Even with the corrected figures, an additional $5,000 in debt for luxury is a bad buy.