Originally Posted: Nov 7, 2018
Last Updated: Feb 4, 2021
The way students live on campus is changing rapidly based on evolving student habits and needs regarding everything from technology and privacy to sustainability and inclusivity. On-campus housing is affecting students’ college decisions, how colleges are building new dormitories, and so much more. Here are nine ways student housing is changing.
1. University selection
A majority of students today grew up never having to share a bedroom or bathroom—in many cases, college is the first opportunity they’ve had for communal living. As a result, parents and students look at the selection of university housing differently. In a survey of more than 25,000 students conducted by American Campus Communities in April 2018, more than 78% of those surveyed said the availability of quality student housing affected their college or university selection.
2. Co-ed housing
The exclusive male and female dorm communities are becoming scarce. Students and universities now expect gender inclusivity—this means co-ed residential floors, units, and even bathrooms, which are designed as fully secured toilet and shower areas with communal vanity spaces. At today’s universities, especially in urban markets, there are many options to accommodate various levels of privacy expectations.
Related: Co-ed Dorms: Sleeping Together
3. Units for all
There is no “one size fits all” student housing these days. Every modern student has differing expectations of privacy versus community living. Younger classifications often reside in environments with less privacy and more community interaction, while the opposite is true for upperclassmen.
For example, first-year students may opt to live in a traditional residence hall with shared rooms and common floor bathrooms, while sophomores may choose suite-style accommodations with shared bedrooms and an in-unit bathroom. Juniors and seniors tend to live in apartment communities that provide increased privacy, with single bedrooms and full kitchens and living rooms.
There are also honors colleges or living-learning communities (which provide a living environment for students with similar academic aspirations) and graduate student housing (which accommodates single students, couples, and families). Meeting the unique needs of each student’s lifestyle requires differing community designs and experiences.
4. Communal vs. private spaces
With varying needs regarding privacy and community living among college student classifications, ample academic/social resources and modern amenities in today’s residential communities are vital. Contemporary students will socialize when and how they please and enjoy having immediate access to various resources such as printing, delivery, and vehicle services without having to own them.
While upperclassmen tend to want more privacy, we find these students are comfortable partaking in the broader community as long as getaway spaces are provided, prompting the inclusion of modern academic spaces, cafés, car-sharing services, and community spaces in modern student communities.
5. Study style
Student study habits have evolved with the availability of technology. Because technology is increasingly portable, students are no longer chained to their desks. Instead, students take their electronics outside to community spaces, study spaces, and cafés, prompting student housing to focus on the quality of indoor and outdoor spaces and providing a variety of settings that are technology enabled and will accommodate two to five people, which encourages group study and collaboration.
Technology is pervasive and expected to be convenient. And in student living, it’s similar to a utility—like running water, connectivity and technology-enabled spaces are the norm. That means there’s little to no tolerance for service volatility or slow bandwidth, as utilizing devices and apps is part of the daily lifestyle of the modern student. This has affected the way communities and residential areas are planned as far as accessibility to outlets, wireless access points, and other technology features.
7. Going green
Today’s students grew up with sustainable behavior as the norm, meaning they recycle, expect water and energy efficiency, and are comfortable living in buildings that are designed to be sustainable. Environmental responsibility is a priority, and contemporary students seek out eco-friendly living spaces. As a result, many colleges prominently display their residential sustainability accomplishments and features—water conservation, energy efficiency, sustainable certifications, etc.—and communicate environmental accountability to prospective residents.
8. Transportation and parking
Each year, fewer students bring cars to campus due to the growing number of diverse transportation options. Nationally, students are getting their driver’s licenses later than they used to, if at all. Many housing communities now only provide parking for about 50% of students, and in some cases, not even those fill up. In order to promote walkability, university campuses have been converting paved areas back to green spaces, moving dense parking to the outskirts of campus. This trend, along with the popularity of ride sharing and other public transportation options such as Bird and Lime, have contributed to many students not bringing their cars to college.
9. Community and resident assistants
Ten to 20 years ago, resident assistants were perceived as an on-campus standard. Today student paraprofessionals have become an off-campus norm as well. Students and parents recognize that resident assistants and purpose-built communities are key factors in supporting academic success. All parties seem to appreciate that paraprofessional staff foster healthy students living in residential communities and are important in the transition from home to college living.
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