October 8, 2020

Student Housing and COVID-19

Student housing is certainly a highlighted concern since COVID-19 began in early March. At the start of the pandemic, students were forced into remote education to continue working towards their degrees without exponential viral exposure, but that did not mean they needed to head home. In fact, many of the students (61% in March and 70% in April) stayed in student housing as they felt it was safer for them than moving back home.

Many campuses have opened in-person classes back up in the fall semester, and innovative developers and general contractors are restructuring student living to be as safe as possible for those coming in and those who have already been living there from the beginning.

Common Student Housing Changes

There is no one-size-fits-all scenario on what colleges and universities will be doing to promote improved student housing. But if there is one thing for sure, most, if not all, are transforming to some degree to assure students that their wellbeing is being prioritized. With some extensive research, here are a couple of the most common new regulations that have been set in place or pondered as a response to COVID-19.

Reduced Occupancy Limit

Though part of the college experience is to have roommates, many locations are reducing the number of people who can live together in one student housing unit. Because of this, it may become a catalyst for fewer students getting accepted for student housing, due to spreading people out more. In addition, this raises the notion of potentially building more, smaller housing structures in the future to accommodate.

Creating Micro-Centers

With more single units being implemented in student housing, which leads to better germ control, it means that there will be more space for them to focus on work. However, the question is how to address shared amenities, such as restrooms, outdoor spaces, etc. By scaling down and decentralizing, “neighborhoods” can be formed around them in a cluster of 5-6 units. For instance, a lounge, garden, laundry room, etc. can be shared. This still allows these students to have a sense of connectivity while still limiting exposure to COVID-19.

The Future of Student Housing

General contractors and developers have come up with and executed several ways to allow students to remain healthy in such an uncertain time. Between following CDC protocols, establishing amenities sanitization procedures, changes in mail delivery, utilizing virtual tours, and much more, they are all efforts with the primary mission to keep students safe. Of course, they need to take their own personal precautions to help minimize the spread, such as washing hands, social distancing, and wearing masks, but student housing alterations surely will have a lasting impact.

As a final note, due to the crisis responses from colleges and universities across the nation, there may be a dip in enrollment this fall, but not enough to harm the system. For reference, there was a March survey by Simpson Scarborough, which asked high school seniors if they were going to attend a 4-year university in 2020, and 89% of them plan on it.

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