COLLEGES LURE STUDENTS WITH POSH AMENITIES
Hilary Burke settled into her new room at Boston College and plugged into the odd-looking outlets on the wall. ''I use the phone jack, primarily,'' says Ms. Burke. ''It has e-mail, it has call-forwarding, so you don't have to use an answering machine any more. The cable hookup has 30 to 40 different channels, whereas before the reception in the dorms was horrible.'' Workers spent the summer wiring every room in BC's residence halls for phone mail, cable TV, and Internet access - the trendiest amenities on college campuses in the United States. Hoping to lure students from a shrinking pool of prospects, universities are adding five-star features to dormitories.Today's campus residences offer kitchens, gyms, in-room movies, central air conditioning, cable television, call waiting, computer hookups - even room service. ''For a lot of students, the academic program is not their top priority,'' says Peg Layton, director of housing at the University of Texas in San Antonio, whose undergraduate dormitory has a competition-sized indoor swimming pool, private bathrooms, and computer labs. ''They're looking at the facilities and the environment the campus has.'' ''Parents are coming in from a consumer point of view,'' says John Sutter, residence halls director at Purdue University in South Bend, Ind. ''If they're going to spend big bucks, they want to see what they're going to get for their money.'' Purdue is adding call-waiting and in-room movies, and has hired a residence hall marketing director. Food is a big part of the universities' efforts to make students happy. DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., has invited parents to submit their students' favorite recipes Illinois State University has added fast-food outlets to the lobbies of its residence halls; students can order room service by fax. Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, spent $100,000 adding kitchens to three residence halls, even though its students are required to be on the meal plan. Students hardly need to leave their rooms at all. At Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., students can use the Internet hookups in their rooms to see their tuition bills and grades, rifle through the library catalogue, enroll in courses, order books, and check out opportunities for internships.