In dorms, atmosphere's electric Devices: Today's college students move into their rooms with all the plugged-in comforts of home, from stereo systems to computers.

The Education Beat

September 09, 1998|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

WHEN I SET OFF for college 39 years ago this week, I carried on the train two suitcases and a heavy typewriter.

My Columbia University roommate and I had a single electrical appliance -- an AM-FM radio. Hot plates were considered fire hazards and banned. We watched the Kennedy-Nixon debates the next year on the only television sets available -- black-and-whites in the dorm lounges.

Eight years later, in 1967, about a quarter of freshmen lugged typewriters and alarm clocks to school, according to a survey conducted by a Minnesota research firm and sponsored by the Best Buy appliance chain. Nineteen percent had stereos, including eight-track players. Only 12 percent had televisions.

By 1984, nearly a generation after I entered college, Cami Colarossi, now a public relations official at Sylvan Learning Systems in Baltimore, had many of the comforts of home in her dormitory room at Goucher College.

Colarossi, who came from Pittsburgh, and her roommate had a refrigerator, a television, a portable stereo and a hot pot. They carpeted their floors, bought lamps and a director's chair, and hung Monet prints. "We'd gather around the hot pots and brew tea," she remembers. "We didn't have the fanciest rooms in the world, but they were comfortable."

Now we shift 14 years ahead to Amber Tolley, a 19-year-old junior at Towson University.

Tolley is a resident assistant (RA) presiding over 68 students on two floors, one alcohol-free, the other a "quiet zone" between 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. Players of loud music or television during the quiet time are dealt with severely, says Tolley, a Cambridge, Md., native.

Still, she says, almost all dorm rooms at Towson have televisions, VCRs, stereo systems and cordless phones, with the university-provided "microfridges" -- combination microwaves and refrigerators.

Then there are computers, increasingly popular on campuses since the mid-'80s and humming away in all respectable dorm rooms, according to Tolley. To stay competitive, colleges and universities have had to "wire" their dormitories for access to the Internet, an expensive task that is one of the factors in soaring college costs.

Computers have changed the way college students study. Most schools still have computer labs, where students can do their keyboarding and print papers. But these days they can do everything in the comfort of their dorm rooms.

At Towson, room computers are hooked to the Internet through the Comcast cable system. Students can e-mail each other and their professors, and some have dorm-room faxes.

The "residence hall," as the University of Maryland, College Park insists the dorm be called, has gone from being much less comfortable than home to being more comfortable -- so comfortable, says Tolley, that many students go to the library or a university-provided study room to hit the books.

Too many distractions in the dorm.

Classic toy, the yo-yo, comes bouncing back

Parenting for High Potential, a publication of the National Association for Gifted Children, is out with its second annual holiday toy survey. The magazine tests the toys with bright kids and their parents. From time to time until Christmas, we'll feature some of the recommendations.

This week's entry is "The Klutz Yo-Yo Book," by the editors of Klutz Press (800-558-8944). The book, which comes with a yo-yo, gives some of the history and physics of yo-yoing.

The accompanying "Rocket Yo-Yo" is durable and can be taken apart "so that yo-yoers can easily repair the 'Deadly String Knot.' "

One parent tester found the kit a great "intergenerational toy," as the kids' grandmother enjoyed it "as much as the kids did."

Latest enrollment boom expected to peak in 2003

Factoid of the week:

A news release from the state Office of Planning tells us that Maryland public school enrollment will reach a high of 841,000 in 2003, then begin a gradual decline. (This is the second enrollment boom since mid-century.) "Newer suburban jurisdictions" such as Calvert, Howard and Frederick will continue to grow until 2007 or 2008.

Pub Date: 9/09/98

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