Speaking as one who has had (and currently does have/maintain) planted tanks in college, I can say its not really that big of a deal. I'd reccomend getting a decent lighting setup - then again, I look at my 55gal tank back home (its technically my younger sister's tank I just buy all the plants for it and keep things in check, she does water changes feeding the fish etc.) which has the Home Depot 2x 40W NO Flourescent lights for a whopping $7.98+tax. The plants grow very well, with no fertilizing, no CO2, nadda. Its a very "low tech" setup by most standards, with only a heater and HOT Magnum canister filter.
As for substrates, we've been using pea gravel in ours. Mostly because it was cheap (read, free!) and at the time we found it aestetically pleasing. Over time, we've become bored with it, and over the summer I plan on changing it to the soilmaster select stuff being discussed in another thread. That being said, I've grown plants in many different substrates, but if you have an affinity for bare bottomed tanks (for whatever reason be it ease of cleaning, making it easier to bring the plants home/move them to another room without disturbing the root system, etc) you can plant them in terracotta pots with gravel/whatever. My girlfriend did that in a tank and her plants grow incredibly well with 1wpg (and the entire top of the tank covered in duckweed or hornwort).
As for the wrap that the plants come in, I always remove it and plant the plants into my substrate. I dont know how the plants would fare long term in the wrap.
As for requiring a lot of work to keep the tank clean, its a matter of opinion. We do weekly 25% water changes on our tanks, and in our case the python makes it convienient, but in a dorm setting that may be problematic (most people, at least at my college, thought my siphon was a beer bong). Generally speaking you arent going to have a massive tank in your dorm room, so having a 5gal bucket around for water changes will do the trick - but expect to get some strange looks. Aside from water changes, and feeding of the fish, our tank pretty much takes care of itself. Occasionally we'll get a spot of hair algae, but manual removal is pretty easy.