Student management

Colleges get creative to solve student housing crisis

Students are scrambling to find housing as the fall semester approaches, with many colleges dealing with long waiting lists and the frustrations of would-be residents desperate for a bed on campus. At some institutions, waiting lists for housing are a positive sign for both booming enrollment and student preferences.

But even when faced with such welcome developments, institutions still need to determine where to place students for the coming academic year. As some universities turn to familiar strategies, such as placing students in nearby hotels, others are rolling out new tools to entice students, and even alumni, to ease high housing demands.

Application for student accommodation

The waiting list for housing at the University of Utah recently stood at 3,500 students. Now that number is down to less than 300, according to Sean Grube, executive director of housing and residential education at the Salt Lake City campus. Despite the surge in enrollment, Grube said, the university has made “dramatic improvement” in reducing its waiting list and even enlisting local alumni to house students in their homes.

“We have had a huge increase in demand for enrollment over the past two years, students are really excited to participate [the University of Utah] and that has led to increased interest in housing,” Grube said.

Utah isn’t alone in facing a housing shortage due to growing enrollment. In Ohio, the University of Cincinnati navigates a similar scenario.

“First and foremost, we’re growing our freshman class quite aggressively,” said Jack Miner, vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Cincinnati. This means more demand for a limited number of beds.

But that’s only part of the problem, Miner explained. Cincinnati has also seen “unprecedented interest in housing” from local students who normally commute to campus. “I hear firsthand from students that they’ve experienced high school so much as being online, that they absolutely want to have that full student life experience,” Miner said.

The coronavirus pandemic has emptied many K-12 schools across the United States, forcing high school students to take classes remotely and disrupting extracurricular activities. Today, many students seek to make up for these lost experiences by embracing campus life.

And it’s not just new freshmen who have been affected; some observers note that housing demand is on the rise even among the upper classes, who also saw their first two years of college curtailed by the pandemic when many universities emptied their dorms and moved away.

“Students want the opportunity to live on campus and integrate into campus life,” Grube said. “The proximity to other students and the experience, I think that’s the main driver [of demand].”

Then, of course, there’s runaway inflation, which stands at 9.1% according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Housing prices, like many goods and services, have risen dramatically. Residence halls can often, but not always, be a more affordable alternative, with many colleges offering below-market-rate housing for private rentals.

A Florida Atlantic University communications officer who is also seeing an increase in enrollment and demand for housing cited cost as one of the reasons students want to live on campus.

“Increasing freshman enrollment, coupled with a lack of affordable local housing as well as a limited local housing inventory, has created an unprecedented demand for on-campus housing space,” Joshua wrote. Glanzer, FAU spokesperson, via email. “Many universities, in Florida and across the country, are facing similar situations. In anticipation of a surge in demand, we ended the application on May 1, leaving us with a waiting list of over 800 students.

Private student accommodation providers are also reporting increased demand. Inquiries and lease volume are both up from a year ago in almost every market for Cardinal Group, a property management company with lots of student accommodation, according to Jenn Cassidy, senior vice president of operations at student housing. Pre-letting for fall 2022 is up about 7% from last year, she added.

Another part of the challenge for colleges is that fewer off-campus beds have been added during the pandemic, putting additional pressure on colleges to find places for students. Cassidy noted via email that since student accommodation is a hot market, providers are likely to invest in more capacity to meet growing demand in the future.

“Cardinal believes the outlook for future student accommodation is very positive. With high occupancy rates in portfolios this year, landlords will focus on rental growth and strategic real estate investments,” Cassidy said. “Over the past 2 years during the pandemic, the number of new beds delivered across the country has been significantly lower than in previous years. It is expected that new supply for fall 2023 will increase and trends will begin to return to pre-pandemic.

Student housing solutions

Some colleges find beds for students by looking to local hotels. Florida Atlantic University, for example, has signed contracts with two hotels within two miles of campus that will provide 180 beds, accommodating most of the 195 students who were on the FAU waiting list last week. . To help students feel connected, FAU will host special events at hotels and provide a shuttle bus that connects them to campus.

Other colleges take a different approach. The University of Utah offers local alumni $5,000 per semester to council students. The university aims to place 100 students with local alumni, but could expand that number to 1,000 placements next fall if the pilot program is successful.

Utah will also house students at its on-campus hotel and conference center, and recently leased property three miles from campus that will include shuttle service for students living there.

To make room for incoming students, the University of Cincinnati has encouraged returning students to move from their on-campus housing to adjacent quarters in university-operated properties. Part of the ground for enticing returning students to relocate is that nearby housing is cheaper than in the heart of campus. Then there’s the offer of a $2,500 financial incentive and free parking pass for students willing to move into the private housing market for the fall semester and free up space in campus housing.

“We encourage these students to forfeit their housing contract and live in private accommodation or, in the case of students who grew up in Cincinnati, to be a suburban student rather than an on-campus student.”

Some colleges pressed for student housing also have long-term plans to build more dorms. But in the meantime, some colleges will continue to settle for temporary solutions such as renting hotel space; others will look to one-off incentive programs for students and alumni or turn to public-private partnerships — such as a $200 million, 35-year deal at Eastern Michigan University — to address security issues. student accommodation.