How Is Student Housing Holding Up Amidst the Changing Academic Environment?
The institution of education is one of the most impacted by COVID-19, as all levels of education were forced to adapt at a moment’s notice when the pandemic hit in early 2020. While living rooms becoming classrooms and parents becoming teachers have grabbed the headlines, higher education has also had to revolutionize its operating procedures in order to survive the pandemic. From limiting class sizes to moving certain instruction online to reducing dormitory capacity, many colleges and universities have scrambled to figure things out for the 2020-2021 academic year. Through it all, the off-campus, purpose-built student housing sector remains fairly strong, especially compared to other commercial real estate asset classes. And while demand has been volatile on a university-by-university basis, the willingness and desire for people to congregate near their school will likely help the student housing sector steer through these uncertain times.
Based on early reports from some universities, enrollment for the 2020-2021 academic year is showing mixed results. Enrollment seems to have increased at public universities and in-state universities but declined at private universities, indicating that students may prefer a more affordable and local school if there is a risk of limited in-person engagement or remote instruction. Undergraduate enrollment is down slightly, but graduate enrollment is up, perhaps a result of job losses encouraging professionals to further their education.