by Deborah P. Moore and Shannon O'Connor

Posted on September 23, 2016

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Download as a PDF

Welcome to the 2016-2017 edition of President to President, a thought leadership series offering perspectives from university presidents for university presidents on the challenges faced in higher education. This year’s series, titled “Integrated Approaches to Student Living and Campus Housing—Enhancing Quality of Life and Performance,” will focus on issues related to living on campus, how they impact students and institutions.

Campus housing has evolved from a simple bedroom — a place to sleep and study — to more sophisticated living-learning communities that are an integral part of the student experience. Yesterday's “dorms” are being replaced by high-end, well-equipped spaces containing private rooms and suites and a host of amenities, some taking on the form of luxury hotels – with maid service included. What may seem like unrealistic expectations to some are merely an extension of incoming students’ current lifestyles: private baths, queen-sized beds, and restaurant-quality dining.

Competition is fierce when it comes to recruiting and retaining students. Many institutions are being forced to spend more to provide students with the home-like environment they expect just to keep their schools competitive. The challenge is meeting changing expectations while addressing the rising costs of college education for students and their families, narrowing the gap between “want” and “need,” and deciding how much is too much.

There is also the diversity of today's students to consider, as the number of non-traditional students — those who are not 17 to 22 years old and attending college straight out of high school — continues to rise. Campus housing may need to accommodate older students, married couples, families with children, veterans, international students with varying cultural norms, and more. Some institutions are even establishing themed facilities for like-minded students: separate residence halls for performing arts students, first-generation students, student athletes, engineering students, or those fitting into other categories to encourage collaboration and provide support. There is no one-size-fits-all solution in campus housing facilities.

Many institutions strive to have students live on campus. Students benefit from the opportunity to meet new people, connect with faculty, and find the support they need. Studies and surveys have also found that students living on campus earn higher grades and are more likely to continue in college and graduate. Regardless of whether students live on or off campus, the institution’s responsibility is the same — provide them with a safe, healthy environment in which to live and learn. This can also mean dealing with tough issues like mental health, drug and alcohol use, sexual assaults, or concealed or even open-carry of firearms. Campus housing administrators, whether they are employees of the institution or a management company that has built and operates the residence halls, must be not only jacks of many trades but masters as well, as housing occupants’ physical, mental, and emotional safety are in their hands.

The chapters in this series will allow you to learn from those who have tackled issues that surround campus housing. They will provide solutions for challenges and ideas for discussion — all directed toward the goal of enhancing quality of life and student performance.

Thank you to Sodexo, the sponsor of this series; Dr. Scott D. Miller (president of Virginia Wesleyan College) and Dr. Marylouise Fennell, RSM (former president of Carlow University and currently senior counsel at the Council of Independent Colleges), editors for this series; and to the 10 presidents who will share with you their challenges, solutions, and insights for ensuring positive business outcomes while enhancing the student experience on campus.