Officials at Washington State University announced last week that the school plans to build new dorms. On the face of it, the initiative seems long overdue: The school hasn't built dorms in 37 years. However, the $26 million dollar residence hall adds only 229 beds, at a cost of $113,537 per bed. The residence hall is part of a larger plan to upscale the dorm experience. Instead of cafeterias, students will get meals cooked to order. Instead of dorms, they will enjoy apartment suites, high-tech infrastructure, and other amenities that sound more like condo living than dorm life. Barry Johnston, WSU's associate vice president for business and finance, told the Spokesman Review, "Expectations are higher from our student population that come from middle class or upper-class families. They certainly have not had to share bathrooms in their 18 years of growth." Contrast Johnston's comment to the tale of one Stanford student who benefits from the school's effort to seek out economic diversity in their entering freshmen classes but nonetheless feels out of place amidst Stanford's wealthy student body. After the dorms closed and his financial aid ran out, the student lived out of his car for two weeks, showering in the school's gym, until he received a paycheck from his summer job. The challenge for Stanford, by the way, is not to come up with the money to help such low-income students; it's getting them in the door. School officials struggle over how to judge the applications of students whose educational background naturally reflects fewer resources and opportunities of their more privileged competitors. Just because a few are able to beat the odds doesn't mean everyone should be expected to. Would-be students from Washington state may not be able to pick up and move to a school like Stanford, or WSU, for that matter, even given the chance. In case you missed it, that University of Washington so-called "branch campus" that was all the talk last fall died a quiet death this spring. Say what you want about the efficacy and quality of our two existing branch campuses in Bothell and Tacoma; as I've written on Crosscut before, besides the compelling — at least in the case of Tacoma — possibility of using a branch campus as a catalyst for urban renewal, the real justification for opening a new university campus in the Snohomish County area is to adequately serve place-bound students. Place-bound student are those who, because of financial, work, or family obligations, cannot pick themselves up and relocate to a campus dorm, posh or not. Whether the branches offer such students an education on par with that offered by the main is debatable, but for many students, attending close to home is the only option. WSU will pay for the ritzy new dorms through student fees and bond measures. Still, this is not the right priority for a state that ranks 36th in the nation for the number of students with bachelor's degrees we produce per capita (according to the National Science Foundation). We're catering to the comforts of a few instead of attending to educational needs that will best serve society as a whole.