College costs go up for a variety of reasons. One is that state funding is declining. Administrative costs are also increasing. But these aren’t the only things that jack up college prices. It’s the dorms. As David Randall writes in Forbes:

While there are obvious costs like annual upkeep and heating, the biggest single reason why dorms are getting more expensive is that they are much nicer than they were 20 years ago. Colleges have spent millions of dollars renovating or building new dorms in order to offer the same sort of suburban comforts that many students are accustomed to.

It’s not just that they want prospective students to be comfy. Institutions compete with each other not only for the brightest students, but for families who are able to pay full price. These families may see a cramped, shared room that hasn’t been renovated for years as a deal breaker and take their dollars elsewhere.

This concern for student comfort (either on the part of colleges or the parents of college students) is a relatively recent development. Until recently most colleges didn’t have dormitories at all. Students either lived in fraternities and sororities or rented space in boarding houses in town.

And then something changed. It doesn’t really appear that students get much out of all this comfort, except higher debt upon graduation. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer