If you think a rooftop pool, tanning bed and fire pit are amenities too luxurious for a college dorm, think again.
As universities experience budget crunches and students face soaring tuition costs, Campus Crest Communities Inc., a publicly traded company based in Charlotte, N.C., develops and markets fully furnished luxury dorms to college and grad students across U.S. and Canada.
Campus Crest brands target potential tenants, much like a hotel parent company offers various inns and resorts. The 10-year-old company just introduced its newest brand idea, evo, described as an "upscale urban student housing concept designed to target mature undergrads and grad students." The first upscale evo properties are scheduled to open in fall 2014. One of these will serve University of Pennsylvania students, rooftop pool included, and will be the tallest student housing property in the country with 33 stories and 850 beds. The evo Montreal will be the company's first entrance into the international market.
Campus Crest's other two brands cater to a specific customer base as a Residence Inn by Marriott might appeal to business travelers and a Great Wolf Lodge waterpark resort targets families. Campus Crest's the Copper Beech brand offer town homes that target seniors and grad students. The Grove brand targets sophomores and juniors, with traditional apartment floor plans and a residence life program with its own resident assistant, or RA, system. Campus Crest's RAs are officially called community assistants, or more affectionately "rock stars."
The company has 86 student housing properties and more than 45,205 beds across the U.S.
Madalyn Caldwell, 21, became a community assistant in August 2012 when the Grove Auburn first opened. Caldwell, a psychology major, lived in university housing for her first semester during freshmen year.
"I hated it," she said. "You can't cook there and can't control the A/C. I'm an only child, so having to share a bathroom and room wasn't very comfortable for me."
In contrast, Caldwell calls the Grove Auburn's amenities, such as having a personal closet, printing in the library, and a Bingo game that provides groceries for the winner, "awesome."
She was first drawn to the Grove Auburn for its proximity to campus and the privacy it offered. All of Campus Crest's buildings offer private bedrooms and bathrooms.
Members of Caldwell's family visit periodically from Montgomery, Ala., and Caldwell says they like that she can live with her Maltese dog, and the spaciousness of her three-bedroom apartment. A typical three-bedroom spans about 1,200 square feet. Rent is about $540 per person in a three-person unit.
Ted Rollins, co-founder and CEO of Campus Crest Communities, said his private housing can offer "quality life" with no material financial impact on mom and dad paying the bills. The average rent is $500 for a fully furnished apartment with utilities, Internet and cable included.
There is plenty of competition in the industry for private student housing, both small and large, but Campus Crest is one of the larger businesses in the field. American Campus Communities Inc., based in Texas and founded in 1993, is a competing publicly traded company.
Campus Crest has a "full delivery model," Rollins explains, with its own general contractor, supply firm and asset management company.
"It's a more efficient way to get a product to the market," he said. "It saves time and increases quality."
Jeremy Ladnier, 21, lives at the Grove Mobile, which serves students from the University of South Alabama. Originally from Hurley, Miss., Ladnier said he enjoys the "friendly atmosphere" of the staff.
"Every night, someone is on-call out front or on the phone if something goes wrong," he said.
He pays $505 a month to share a three-bedroom unit with two friends.
He also enjoys that the property is brimming with college life. The volleyball and basketball courts and soccer fields in Ladnier's apartment building are standard in Campus Crescent housing. Ladnier just moved in a month ago and only has had time to enjoy the property's gym and tanning bed, however.
"They're the only ones I've gotten to so far," he said. "It was good."