Â…And the Survey Says

Enrollment continues to grow at colleges and universities across the country. Along with growing enrollment comes the need to provide more and better housing for students who plan to live on campus. Your ability to recruit new students and retain the students you have depends in part on the quality of campus housing at your institution.

To find out more about the housing issues facing colleges today, College Planning & Management surveyed administrators from two- and four-year colleges and universities nationwide. The 2012 Living on Campus Survey was completed by 209 of your colleagues from 45 states. The respondents were responsible for more than 2,500 residence hall buildings — new and old, large and small. Here is what they had to say.

Forty-four percent reported a lack of sufficient space in response to the question “How much residence hall space does your campus currently have?” Only three percent reported having surplus space. Despite the shortage of residence hall space, only 25 percent of the institutions surveyed reported that they are currently in the process of increasing the number of available beds.

Seventy percent of the new residence halls being planned will be owned and operated by the university. Even if a private developer or university foundation has ownership of the buildings, most universities will still operate the facility.

When asked about the impact of the economy on the number of students living on campus, 44 percent of the institutions reported no effect. Thirty-one percent reported an increase in the number of students living on campus, while only 25 percent reported a decrease. Seventy-four percent of institutions actively campaign to keep students in campus housing. But not having enough space has translated into overcrowding, not enough housing for juniors and seniors, and a negative impact on their relationship with the neighborhoods that are in close proximity to the school.

While building new may not be an option, 62 percent of the institutions polled are in the process of renovating or upgrading their facilities. Renovations have been put on hold in 12 percent of the institutions due to budget constraints. The good news is that this number is down from the 17 percent reported in last year’s survey. The lack of sufficient space has made it near impossible for many institutions to make improvements to their residence halls on a rotating basis, adding to the deferred maintenance dilemma.

Top Concerns
Last year the concern that topped the list was the growing cost of a college education for students and families (tuition, room & board). This year, growing student/parent expectations and deferred maintenance have taken the #1 and #2 slots. Students’ priorities still appear to be amenities, privacy, and single units — a “hotel” experience rather than a “college” experience — and many are basing their choice of college on the quality of the residence halls.

A number of universities reported concern regarding students’ ability to adjust successfully to community living. There is increasing concern about students’ experiences prior to college and their ability to share space, think about security, make good decisions, and communicate clearly. A number of schools reported experiencing an increased percentage of students with mental health issues. Others are finding that many of their students do not feel they should be held accountable for breaking rules. When they get fined or evicted, they bad-mouth the college housing and spread gossip that hinders new tenants from coming in.

Other noted concerns were aging facilities, the demand for modern housing options, a need for technology upgrades, cost to students, debt limits, adequate funding, and adequate staffing. The commitment of one university is “what we lack in facilities, we must be able to make up in adequate staff/customer service.” 

A special thanks to all who contributed to the information presented in this report.