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On-Campus Student Housing Provides a Long-Term Investment Opportunity That Helps Both Institutions and Students Succeed

A recent statement released by three national higher-education groups, suggests stimulus funding for state colleges and universities could create funding dependencies that cannot be sustained. They affirm that in order for states to maintain their commitment to providing affordable and accessible education, they need to invest in instructional improvements to meet the long-term needs of students, rather than trying to salvage low-performing programs or investing in resources that aren’t aligned with a state’s economic or workforce needs. On-campus student housing is one way higher-education institutions can make education more accessible and cost effective.

Three national higher-education management and affordability groups issued a recent statement, recommending that state fiscal policymakers have an investment mentality rather than a maintenance or retrenchment mentality when determining how to spend funds created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009, ARRA funds will give some colleges and universities the opportunity “to protect access and quality while improving cost effectiveness and increasing degree productivity.” But warns The Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability (Washington, DC); The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education (San Jose, CA); and The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (Boulder, CO) it could also fund dependencies that cannot be sustained by focusing on low-performing programs or investing in resources that do not contribute to state economic or workforce needs.

Unlike K-12 funding, higher-education funding by ARRA is not defined. Although states are given a defined funding level, they have the flexibility to allocate funds between systems or to different functions within particular institutions. States, therefore, will need to determine how best to maximize their commitment to providing education that is affordable and accessible, while improving educational quality and productivity in order to achieve enrollment growth and degree attainment. One way states can help higher-education institutions make education more accessible in cost-effective ways is through on-campus student housing.

The Benefits of On-Campus Living

Student housing can help colleges better serve their students who can save college-related costs by having the convenience of living where they learn. Living on campus can both alleviate the need for a car and leave more time for studying by eliminating commuting.

According to a National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) report, “What Matters to Student Success,” students who live on campus also benefit socially by having access to faculty, staff members and peers; being exposed to cultural diversity; and involving themselves in more campus activities, such as clubs and committees. Safety is another benefit, established through campus police and secure access in more modern housing facilities.

Robert Mills, Executive Vice President for University Housing Services, Inc., an on-campus student housing developer, believes student housing can improve a campus for the long term. “On-campus student housing can provide long-term improvements for colleges and universities,” he explains. “Not only can student housing help higher-education institutions fulfill their commitment to make education more accessible and affordable, but it better positions their students to succeed and obtain degrees by giving them a place where they can live where they learn.”

Opening Up More Doors

More specifically, establishing student housing could also help higher-education institutions achieve another of the Higher-Education Group recommendations which is to ensure that all qualified entry-level students are accommodated and served somewhere in the state. “Public institutions,” they explain, should be required to work cooperatively to ensure that any first-time student who is denied admission in one institution is accommodated in another within the geographic area that makes attendance possible for the student.” However, for those students who live in remote area of a state or who don’t have access to transportation, finding a convenient geographically located college can be a major obstacle.

“Simply put,” said Mills, “Making student housing a college’s offering gives more prospective students more choices about which college to attend. It opens up the door for more students from outside a college’s immediate region—especially outside of the state and internationally—to attend who might not otherwise be able to due to the high costs of owning a car, commuting and having to pay for housing off campus.”

Armstrong Atlantic State University (AASU), a comprehensive four-year university serving Southeast Georgia, believes their investment in on-campus student housing has directly resulted in enrollments of students from outside the commuting area. AASU’s Vice President for Student Affairs, Vicki L. McNeil, thinks parents of these students also like the idea of on-campus student housing.“Parents want their freshman son or daughter to live on campus at least the first year of college. If they like an institution for its academic offerings and the institution has housing on campus, then there is a high probability the student will attend that school. On the other side of the equation is that if you do not have housing for the first year student outside of the commuting area, then that student will probably choose another institution to attend because parents are uncomfortable with placing their student in an apartment off campus,” said McNeil.

AASU has been investing in student housing over the past several years, starting in 2003 with Compass Point I & II, an apartment-style community. Since that time, AASU has seen improvements in their students, both academically and socially. “We find as many institutions that have housing on campus that students who live on campus tend to earn better grades, are generally more engaged with faculty and tend to return to the institution and finish college sooner than non-resident counterparts,” said McNeil.

Now with 7,000 students and growing due to the expanding Savannah metropolitan area, AASU is currently developing Windward Commons with University Housing Services, who also developed Compass Point I & II. Construction of Windward Commons, a 553-bed community, is scheduled to begin in May.

Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) in Ft. Myers is another university UHS has partnered with since they decided to first implement student housing in 1998. Since that time, FGCU has seen enrollments from outside their region grow. While the southwest counties of Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Glades and Hendry comprise their region, increasing numbers of students are coming from Broward, Palm Beach, Sarasota, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

According to Brian Fisher, FGCU’s Director of Housing & Residence Life, student housing increases the excellence of a university. “Our housing and residence life program is an attractive facet of the FGCU experience. Prospective students often come to our campus and fall in love with what FGCU has to offer. Developing a quality housing and residence life program is a great investment for the campus because it adds to the excellence of the university experience. In turn, it draws many prospective students to the university who are interested in gaining a valuable on-campus experience,” said Fisher.

FGCU’s students have consistently found on-campus housing a positive experience as proven by their Annual Quality of Residence Life Surveys. FGCU’s most recent survey completed this past March found that 90% of students living on campus feel more connected to the University.

References:

Wellman, Jane (The Delta Project); Callan, Pat (The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education); Jones, Dennis (the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems); Postsecondary Education Spending Priorities for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Policy Advisory to State Fiscal Policymakers,” February 27, 2009.

Kuh, George; Kinzie, Jillian; Buckley, Jennifer; Bridges, Brian; Hayek, John; “What Matters to Student Success: A Review of the Literature,” Commissioned Report for the National Symposium on Postsecondary Student Success: Spearheading a Dialog on Student Success, National Postsecondary Education Cooperative, July 2006, P. 96.

About UHS:
For 17 years, University Housing Services has provided on-campus housing that maximizes students’ academic and social experiences. As a long-term development partner with colleges and universities throughout the nation, UHS helps make student housing a viable offering for higher-education institutions through project management, design, construction and finance services. For more information, Email or call us at 888-847-8326 (UHS TEAM).

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