Student Housing Business

SEP-OCT 2018

Student Housing Business is the voice of the student housing industry.

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Page 86 of 88

WHAT'S ON MY MIND September/October 2018 86 T The student housing industry has come a long way since my days as a resident advisor. Off- campus communities have grown in num- ber, size and sophistication in physical nature and operations. The industry now attracts the savviest institutional and international inves- tors, a confirmation of its evolution from local mom-and-pop shops to purpose operated stu- dent housing owners and operators. Amid all the progress, the industry con- tinues to grapple with many of the same challenges it has grappled with for so long, such as increased competition from new off- campus supply, and finding and retaining talented associates to operate ever more com- plex properties. Operators with a long-term commitment to the industry will continue to perform in the face of these headwinds. But recently, and more frequently than I can ever recall, the industry is facing new challenges in the form of increased competition from higher education institutions adding significant on- campus housing supply. While the develop- ment of on-campus housing is nothing new, what stands out to me is the evident desire from the schools to actively compete with the off-campus market. I am faced with the realization now, more than ever, that the off-campus industry is not perceived by higher ed institutions as a complementary component of their students' academic journey. In many ways, it is not a surprise to see this sentiment expressed. Off- campus housing has not always been focused on helping students achieve the broader goals of their academic pursuits, especially dating back to the humbler beginnings of the indus- try. But the industry, communities, and opera- tors have evolved, and on- and off-campus priorities are more aligned than ever before. I believe it is time we all recognize the contribu- tions and benefits of both on- and off-campus housing in the success of the university's mis- sion and in their students' lives and overall development. We all understand that on-campus hous- ing is a critical component in fulfilling the academic mission of higher ed. We all appre- ciate the value of on-campus housing and its impact on student success. There is well established evidence that shows better aca- demic and engagement outcomes for students who live on-campus versus off, especially in their first year. On-campus housing also plays a social role as young adults have their first residential experiences away from home. It's a place where students form critical bonds with each other, organizations, clubs, profes- sors, and other resources that serve them well through the remainder of their time on-cam- pus and beyond. Purpose operated off-campus housing also fills a legitimate and critical need in the com- munity and the lives of college students as they transition from living at home, to living on campus, to living on their own. In fact, purpose-operated off-campus housing serves as a stepping stone between campus living and fully independent living after graduation. Additionally, purpose-operated off-campus housing provides a variety and quantity of quality, cost-effective and safe options to fill a demand for housing that higher ed institu- tions cannot fully meet on their own. Yet, more than ever, I am observing schools that are actively working against the off-campus market instead of with it. I can think of multiple recent examples of schools that have constructed new on-campus apartment-style housing, are in their first or second year of operation, and have vacancy far above the off-campus market averages. Even after changing live-on requirements to avoid such a scenario. Several institutions have even taken the very dramatic step of actively advo- cating for students and parents not to sign off-campus contracts. Schools are barring off- campus communities from operating resident shuttles on public areas of campus, which is one of the ways the industry affords students the ability to take advantage of purpose oper- ated lower-cost housing options while still being able to access school in a timely and efficient man- ner. All of this and more is happening while the private industry is filling a need for affordable, s t u d e n t - f o c u s e d housing that schools are unable to provide on their own. The question is: can we all agree that it takes both on- and off-campus housing to meet the overall needs of the school and the students it is intended to serve? Providing a suitable amount of on-campus housing can give first- or second-year students the stability to transi- tion from home to campus life, while provid- ing enough off-campus housing can allow the private market to fill a gap that is not always economically feasible for the school to meet and is economically efficient for student bud- gets. Meanwhile, off-campus housing allows students to step into the next phase of adult- hood, giving them enough additional freedom and support to continue their transition to adulthood, while also providing a student- focused environment that can help them meet their academic goals. This is not a zero-sum game. Working together, we can create housing and expe- riences that fully support students. This requires open communication, ongoing dia- logue, and genuine appreciation for the con- tribution of both on- and off-campus housing. — Mitchell Smith is chief operating officer of The Scion Group. Let's Build Something Great — Together On-campus housing can work with off-campus providers to build a stronger industry. By Mitchell Smith MITCHELL SMITH Chief Operating Officer, The Scion Group

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