Gone are the spartan dorm rooms of old: fluorescent lit, cinderblock, jail-cell-size rooms with a hard twin bed, small closet and desk.

Today’s college dorms have gone luxe.

Central Oregon Community College’s 1-year-old dorm and Oregon State University Cascades soon-to-open campus quarters are more like apartments — some with a view of the Cascade Range.

Each suite has its own private or semi-private bathroom. There’s no more trekking down the hallway with your personal items to the communal shower.

“Our modern dormitories have single, double and triple suites. They come fully furnished, complete with Wi-Fi, and a food plan, all that starting at $9,855 for an academic year,” said COCC housing marketing director, Stephanie Spalding Bilbrey. “That breaks down to just a little over a thousand a month, and for a student, this is home. And it’s convenient to be on campus.”

Spalding Bilbrey takes us to one of the dorms’ many community lounges. This one is situated over the bridge breezeway. Natural light floods the room through the large windows surrounding each side. The west-facing window has captivating views of Mount Bachelor, while the east-facing window looks out toward the campus and students bustling below the breezeway. A large flat-screen, high-definition television is hanging from one of the walls. The furnishings have bold, beautiful colors with organic textures — none of it vinyl, sticky furniture from the 1950s.

Taking advantage of some down time in one of the many student lounges is Christian Vasquez, 30, a first-year student who has literally lived around the world as an Army veteran.

“I’m new to Bend and this (dormitory) is really perfect. I didn’t have any obstacles in finding a rental place or having to find transportation. The support is pretty awesome here,” explained Christian. “I’ve lived in 10 different barracks, and I can say the logistics of this move was the easiest with 300 students on move-in day. And of course, these dorms are a lot nicer than any barracks.”

If a student is seeking privacy there are private study rooms on every floor. The private study rooms have views of the pine trees and mountains.

Spalding Bilbrey said this COCC dormitory was given the Earth Advantage Gold Award. Part of the design process called for blending the building with the landscape, which Mahlum Architects and Pinnacle Architecture was able to accomplish by building into the hillside and leaving as many original trees as possible.

Living over one of the breezeways are freshmen roommates Alyssa Donnell of The Dalles, and Peyton Teach of Estacada. Teach found a futon sofa on Craigslist for the dorm suite’s living room. It converts into a bed for out-of-town guests.

The students decorated this area with blue sparkle lights on the ceiling to create ambiance. The living room also has their private flat-screen television, a microwave, a small refrigerator and the all-important stereo.

Next to the living room is the bathroom area. It has two sinks and going through another door are the shower and toilet.

On the other side of the living room are Teach’s and Donnell’s shared bedroom. The two roommates, who met this fall, have become fast friends. Their décor matches in style and color, including their favorite accent color of Tiffany blue.

The girls put their beds on risers to add more storage space underneath, and Teach bought the matching black and white animal comforters for their room. Teach describes their decorating style as more country.

The two friends pass through the living room into the next bedroom, where Jennifer Haselden and Emma Smith share their habitat. Donnell said their suite mates have a decorating style that is more hippie. As we exit this bedroom, Teach reaches for the stereo dial and turns up the country music.

“Yeah, we kind of have this agreement that when Jennifer and Emma are here we can’t play country, so we play it when they’re gone,” said Teach, laughing.

Since their room is over one of the building’s breezeways, Donnell said they can see all their dorm mates coming and going through their bedroom window.

“We often yell things down to them,” said Teach, grinning. “What I really love about the dorm here is everyone is so friendly. We usually leave the door open when we’re here, and everybody comes in.”

The roommates also have big plans to bring in an inherited pool table, which they realize will be too big for their personal living room but just the right size for one of the community lounges.

Further proof this isn’t your parent’s dorm is the high-end design for the students’ kitchen area, complete with stainless steel appliances, including a custom-made stainless steel framed double-sided fireplace. This well-equipped kitchen is uptown, upscale and utterly delightful and well loved by the students here.

“At least a couple of times a week, I smell someone making cookies or French toast that wafts up into my office,” said Spalding Bilbrey. “We also have some of the campus clubs put on programs in here. One night, the Asian club had a sushi rolling and dumpling making party. It was very well attended.”

The kitchen is open 24 hours for the students to use. In the dining area of the kitchen is another large flat-screen television, which hangs over the fireplace. Large floor-to-ceiling windows look out to the natural landscape that was left in place. The other side of the double-faced fireplace is another large community room, where those on the second floor foyer area can look down into this open space.

“We built all these different community rooms because we want our students to socialize and get out of their rooms,” explained Spalding Bilbrey. “When you have inviting lounges like these it encourages people to meet others.”

Flourishes of custom-made metal railings throughout this five-story dormitory add to the upscale creativity of this European inspired design.

Spalding Bilbrey said the COCC dormitory is at complete capacity with 329 students and many more on a waiting list for next semester. She said the many changes of student housing can be seen not only with technology, but also with the social awareness.

“When we were designing this residence hall years ago, we had to think of cables. Cables will probably be obsolete in a couple of years,” said Spalding Bilbrey. “I think one of the things we’re most proud of here is our gender inclusivity and being welcoming and respecting everyone’s privacy.”

The dorms of today are infinitely and almost mind bogglingly better than the dorms of yesteryear. But with the increased competition for students, Spalding Bilbrey said COCC needs to be competitive in all areas, and upscale student housing is part of that equation.

— Reporter: halpen1@aol.com

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