Too many students leave college buried in debt, sweating out monthly payments.
Rising tuition often gets the blame.
Nobody ever talks about how the sweating starts in a Swedish sauna.
It's time to out the student luxury industrial complex that's ravaging the bank accounts of parents and college kids everywhere, including right here at the University of Central Florida.
Get a load of this ad for one of UCF's newest housing projects:
"The Swedish Sauna and Sky Deck tanning area, complete with a Tiki Hut, provides a spa-like setting for you to unwind from exams and reinvigorate the senses."
I'm sorry, is UCF offering classes or Caribbean cruises?
NorthView, the $60 million project scheduled to open for the fall semester, is what you might expect if Jackie Siegel was in charge of student housing.
There are granite counter tops in the kitchens and bathrooms. Each apartment-style unit comes with its own 60-inch flat-screen television, side-by-side refrigerator, walk-in closets and "hardwood-style" flooring.
The "South Beach-style environment," according to the project's website, also will include a "resort-style" pool, a sand volleyball court and — why not? — a water volleyball court. There's also a high-speed video game room, a fitness center and a life-size chess board.
Plus, of course, the Swedish sauna and tiki hut where stressed out students can watch the sun go down while enjoying a cool beverage.
Prices at NorthView range from about $3,600 to $3,900 per student per semester.
That makes it UCF's most expensive campus housing.
Local developer Alan Ginsburg is paying to build the project on land he gifted to the UCF Foundation and Jewish student group Hillel.
That's means the UCF Foundation will be a direct beneficiary of students who pay to live like they're taking a four-year vacation.
That may not be a bad business plan, if student debt wasn't turning into a crisis.
In 2011, 42 percent of graduates from UCF left campus with an average of $20,000 in student loans, according to the Project on Student Debt.
It's hard to see how building a Ritz Carlton will help the debt problem when a Hampton Inn with good Internet connections would suffice.
Maribeth Ehasz, UCF's vice president of student development and enrollment services, said UCF is responding to competition from high-end private student housing developments and wants to give students a range of options.
"We have a very diverse student body," she said. "It certainly isn't for everyone, but it's a portion of our housing portfolio."
Another UCF housing project opening this fall is priced more modestly at $3,000 per semester, but it's for freshmen.
Upperclassmen looking for on-campus options are mostly limited to the new NorthView and the comparably priced Towers at Knights Plaza.
UCF isn't alone in its quest to satisfy Jay Gatsby wannabes. Lavish student housing is sweeping the country.
A student complex near Arizona State features a "lazy river." And one near Texas A&M has a clubhouse that the Wall Street Journal likened to a mansion.
University House, privately managed student housing near UCF, comes with tanning rooms and a putting green. The tag line of University House? "College doesn't last forever. Better make it unforgettable."
It'll be hard to forget when you're writing those student-loan checks every month.
I don't buy the argument that universities must provide ultra-luxe living to recruit students.
The University of Florida turns hordes of students away each year and fills all of its dorms, including two that don't even have what was once considered the ultimate Florida amenity: air conditioning.