Adding housing for college students transforms an institution from a commuter destination to an around-the-clock campus. It may even alter the makeup and demographics of the student body. Often the institution can attract students from a wider area, including students who previously were not able to find affordable housing close to campus. Applications from non-traditional and out-of-area students could rise. Each of these changes will affect how constituents within the college and local community view and interact with the institution. The planned development and changes to campus operations must be addressed proactively so that those groups continue to support the institution and its mission.
Administrators would be well advised to engage students, faculty, and the community throughout the exploration process. By keeping key stakeholders informed, leaders can uncover and address objections early on, manage expectations, and create a seamless transition to a new kind of campus.
Communicate the campus vision
Adding on-campus housing for college students can have a significant, sometimes dramatic, impact on an institution. Because these changes may affect student life offerings and programming, they can influence the way students perceive the proposed housing project.
Ultimately, the quality of an institution’s communications to internal and external audiences can affect the ultimate success of the project. Information about leadership’s vision for the campus can be shared through newsletters, social media, and campus signage. However, communication is most powerful when it is part of an ongoing dialogue. This level of communication begins with the initial student survey and continues throughout the process so that everyone feels they’ve had a chance to participate and be heard.
Solicit feedback to drive success
Inviting students and other campus stakeholders into housing decisions can generate goodwill, bring new ideas to the table, and build excitement around the project. This input can be gathered through student surveys, stakeholder meetings, or focus groups.
Informal intercept interviews can also be valuable. Interacting with students spontaneously in the library or dining hall can produce the diverse and honest insights needed to understand what students really think and want out of the project.
Build excitement among potential residents
If students or faculty don’t seem to share the leadership’s vision of the project, don’t despair. It may simply indicate that leadership hasn’t sufficiently communicated the benefits of new housing for its college students. They may need to look for more visible forums in which to make their case. An internal promotion campaign could also generate awareness and excitement on campus. Listening is important, too. When students and faculty believe leadership is taking their concerns seriously and working to address at least some of them, they are far more likely to lend their support and enthusiasm to the project.
For more, download our full research on Starter Home: Preparing for Your First Campus Housing or register for our upcoming webinar.