Off-campus student housing has come a long way in recent years. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Since 2010, private equity firms, real estate investment trusts and private developers have been cranking up delivery of off-campus accommodations, often rich with amenities such as pools and movie theaters.” In many college towns, these options are appealing to students looking for nicer housing than what is available on campus.
When you weigh the costs and benefits, these complexes aren’t always as expensive as you would assume. This is especially true, according to the Wall Street Journal, in markets where the supply of housing is outpacing demand. That can lead to complexes offering great deals to attract students.
What prompted this growth in upscale off-campus housing? An article on Bizmology explains that it was fueled by increasing campus enrollments and a simultaneous decrease in funding for on-campus housing construction. In addition, in recent years, students have shown a preference for schools where they can find modern and trendy accommodations.
I found a good example of these trends at Valparaiso University in Indiana. The on-campus dorms date back to the 1960s. The student enrollment for fall of 2013 is the largest in 32 years. About five years ago, a student housing development company capitalized on the University’s outdated dorms and growing enrollments, building the Uptown East apartment complex. Upperclassmen are allowed to move there and the university sponsors this complex, so any financial aid that a student is receiving can be applied toward rent, unlike typical off-campus apartments.
The apartments are fully furnished. Each student rents his or her own bedroom with private bathroom and shares a modern kitchen, washer and dryer, and living room with a flat-screen TV with one other student (except for a limited number of single bedroom units). The complex includes a shared clubhouse with a private movie theater, group study rooms, outdoor patio and fitness center. The pricing per student is comparable to the price of a single dorm room on campus, plus the student can potentially save money on food by not having to take a campus meal plan.
I talked to a senior who is living in the Uptown East apartments for the first time. She loves that she is right next to campus, that she doesn’t have to eat cafeteria food, that all utilities are included in the price, and that her aid money can apply to a really nice place to live. She also said that the complex is completely rented out for the year.
Upscale off-campus housing is available in college towns across the country. The company that owns Uptown East owns 57 new or recently renovated complexes at colleges around the country and there are many similar companies out there.
If your student is interested in off-campus housing, the cost of these upscale complexes may be justifiable, with benefits such as proximity to campus, utilities included, no need to buy furniture, savings from cafeteria meal plans, and the ability to apply aid money to pay rent, if the complex is university sponsored. Plus, if your student happens to be in one of the college markets with more supply than demand, luxury student housing could be much more affordable than you think.
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