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Bringing Students Back on Campus: Who Owns the Brand?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017


Every university in the United States had both professional and independent apartment owners and managers scattered around their periphery for decades. Increasing enrollment was managed by the marketplace and universities focused on new buildings for academic, research, student life, recreation, and sports complexes. Frankly, it was easier to get a donor or a state legislature to approve an Interdisciplinary Science and Research Center than it was to fund a Residence Hall.

Despite this funding differential, student housing cannot be denied in its ability to effectively and positively impact student experience and success. It is the core of the branded student life experience on campus. Research has shown that strengthened student engagement leads to long-term alumni-engagement and donor growth. Strengthened engagement leads to higher graduation rates and student success. The broad consensus is that engagement can be enhanced by bringing students back on-campus or in near-campus housing. Who is going to build it faster and better? Developers or Higher-Education Institutions?

  • If left to the marketplace and a new generation of sophisticated high-quality student housing developers, will the ultimate effect be a college experience that is organized by social groupings stratified by the ability of parents to pay for housing?
  • If left to the University, will the product be truly responsive to the contemporary and ever-changing demographics and demands of 18-22 year-olds?
  • How can both institutional and private housing projects positively impact the on-campus student life experience?
  • Regardless of who builds it, will the investment in new living spaces reinforce the brand of the institution?
  • Do Public Private Partnerships (P3′s) provide the best of both worlds?

These are the pressing questions that keep university administrators up at night, and the topics that we will be exploring further in a series of future posts.


Joe Herzog has been with Shepley Bulfinch since 2009. He is a national design and planning leader for both institutional and private developments on campuses throughout the United States.