Student Housing Business

MAR-APR 2015

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

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Page 102 of 104

WHAT'S ON MY MIND MARCH/APRIL 2015 STUDENT HOUSING BUSINESS .COM 102 A BRIEF HISTORY OF STUDENT HOUSING AND A LOOK AT THE FUTURE By Michael Coakley S Student housing continues to play an important role in the academic and personal success of stu- dents. This was not always the case. There was a time when housing was simply a place for students to sleep with little regard to their personal develop- ment. Throughout the past several generations and looking toward the upcoming generation, the role student housing, and the way it is conceived and developed, has evolved. The following pro- vides an overview of how student housing has changed over time, and what can be expected as the next generation starts attending institutions of higher education. Prior to World War II, most colleges and uni- versities provided little in the way of purpose- built student housing, with a minimal amount of housing available for female students in a safe environment. Men from outside the immediate area sought housing with faculty, families or in boarding houses. Even today, many college towns have ordinances in place governing boarding houses left over from that era. However, during WWII the number of women attending institutions of higher edu- cation increased as did student housing on many campuses. Following World War II and with the assis- tance of the GI Bill, there was a huge increase in the number of male students attending public universities. The local areas surround- ing campuses did not have the capacity to house the returning soldiers, and as a result pressure was placed on the colleges and uni- versities to resolve the issue. In fact, many states provided bonds for the construction of housing and dining facilities. Since most schools did not have a "housing expert" on staff they turned to men who had experience with housing and feeding large numbers of people, quartermasters from the armed ser- vices. As a result, much of the housing that was built between the end of the war and the early 1960s was based on the concept of barracks and large dining facilities, with long double-loaded quarters and common bath- rooms. Also typical were dining halls with stainless steel lines where students queued up to get meals at specifc times of the day. Dress codes and curfews were the norm. "House mothers" were responsible for the students in their buildings with upper-class students act- ing as foor "monitors" responsible for enforc- ing the rules. The vast majority of students living in these facilities were from the Great Generation. After their experiences in the Great Depression and the war, they did not complain about conditions because in many cases it was better than what they had previ- ously experienced. It was also during this time the vast majority of institutions estab- lished parietal rules, in which all students from certain classifcations were required to live on campus with the primary purpose of covering the costs of the bonds. Baby Boomers began to hit American cam- puses in the early '60s, and the large infux of students again strained the housing capac- ity at many institutions. In response, the fed- eral government offered low interest loans for schools to increase their housing capac- ity. To maximize the number of beds, many schools built high-rise residence halls to use the smallest footprint while also constructing as many bed spaces as possible. The federal loans included anything that was a part of the building structure itself which resulted in built-in furniture such as beds, dressers and desks. Being more vocal than their previ- ous generation, the Baby Boomers expressed their displeasure with both the design of the residence halls and the parietal rules. Up to the mid-60s residence hall staffng remained similar to that of the previous generation of housing facilities. The mid- to late-'60s are remembered for the social unrest that existed on many col- lege and university campuses. In addition to civil rights, women's rights and disdain for the Vietnam War, there was a movement to abolish rules such as dress codes, curfew and parietal rules, resulting in sit-ins, marches and other protests. It was also during this period the rise of "residential life" began to bloom. If parietal rules needed to remain enforced to generate suffcient funds to cover debt, there needed to be a focus on the residential expe- rience. Gone were the quartermasters and house mothers, replaced by young educa- tors who saw the residential experience as a development opportunity for students. There was much research conducted in the late '60s and early '70s that focused on developmen- tal theories developed by Gilligan, Riker and DeCoster, Perry and Chickering, just to name a few. These theories were incorporated into the staffng and programs of residential facili- ties at that time. As parietal rules were not being upheld by the courts, many insti- tutions expanded their residential life offerings in an effort to not only pro- vide a good place for students to live while attending their institution, but to also differentiate themselves from the growing number of off-campus student housing providers. Fast forward to the 1980s, which saw an increased percentage of the population seeking higher education as the early Echo Boomers began arriving on college campuses. Due to the state of the economy it was dif- fcult for institutions of higher education to obtain the funds needed to expand their on- campus capacity. As a result some institutions turned to the private sector to assist with the construction of on-campus student housing funded by a third party. Unfortunately, due to the lack of experience on both parties, the typical design implemented was a garden- style apartment which could be utilized to house other populations if necessary. The out- come of this design did not prove successful from an institutional point of view. The design did not lend itself to encouraging students to engage with others besides their roommates, and actually had a negative effect on reten- tion and academic success. After a few years this model was scrapped by institutions going forward; however, it did result in the growth of off-campus purpose-built student housing geared at older students. Many of the off- campus providers realized that to differenti- ate themselves from their competitors, they needed to incorporate some level of residence life into their offerings. When the Millennials started arriving on campuses in the 1990s it again stressed capac- ity, and also launched a new phenomenon of "helicopter parents." Both students and their parents were very vocal about what was acceptable in terms of housing. Couple this with the fact that most schools had deferred MICHAEL COAKLEY President Coakley and Colleagues continued on page 101

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