More from InterFace On-Campus 2014: The State of On-Campus Housing

by Scott Reid

At the session titled “The State of On-Campus Housing,” held Nov. 6 at the second annual InterFace On-Campus Housing Conference in Orlando, Jason Taylor, vice president for advisory services with The Scion Group, led a panel of university housing, operations and campus-life leaders through a discussion about their priorities now within their campus’ housing offerings.

Taylor pointed out that there is a marked decrease in state funding for higher education, which has shrunken significantly, especially in Arizona where it is down by 40 percent from 2008 to 2013. Nine other states are down by a third, he said, while Alaska and North Dakota are the only two states that have increased higher-education subsidies. What this means is near-term demographics challenges and higher competition to attract international students. Turning to the panel, he asked what was important to them in their housing and facilities. Chris Skiba, director of capital planning with Purdue University, which is about to break ground on an 800-bed honors college, said one of his biggest focuses currently is getting ADA put in place.

Marc Robillard, executive director of auxiliary services at Boston University, discussed how highly competitive Boston is, with 15 percent of the top colleges in the country within 10 miles of the BU campus.

“Enrollment services is trying to identify the important elements of this,” he said. “Now, we are being evaluated on factors that contribute to our rankings, primarily graduation and retention rates, down to the building level. I have to pay attention to not put our freshmen into buildings that have historically low retention.”

Steven Krakoff, vice president for capital planning and campus operations with Bowling Green State University, echoed this comment, saying that with housing, the university has to be acutely sensitive to what it spends and that it drives retention as well as being affordable to students.

“The typical fear of developers is that there will be qualities taken out of projects. This is clearly not the case with the companies that are successful. Those that have success in this area are transparent and collegial. They should  demonstrate a level trust in their university partner.”

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