• Begin planning as early as you can. Work with Admissions in reviewing enrollment targets for the year. Use historical data regarding returning student retention. Target your need for space as early as you can, as it will allow for more time to plan.
• Understand your University and Enrollment Management policies for housing new students. Does the University commit to housing all freshmen? All freshman and sophomores? All students?
• Work with Admissions/Enrollment Management to determine cut-off dates for guaranteed housing. Understand the political climate of your University and the drive for growth. Understand that these could easily outweigh any cut-off dates that have been previously established.
• If your housing shortage is anticipated to be short term, consider a 2-week to 1-month arrangement with an area hotel to accommodate cancellations and “no shows”.
Securing Off-Campus Accommodations
• Research options available through leasing space in off-campus apartments, hotels, or from other Universities who may have space vacancies.
• Although relationships may exist between your University and an off-campus provider, secure arrangements initially through letters of intent. Utilize your legal counsel to finalize agreements through formal contracts. Remember that without a formal legal agreement, your intended housing arrangement could fall through.
• Universities and hotels, unlike off-campus apartments, have a comfort level with the mass arrival and departure of individuals into and from their facilities. Attempt to educate off-campus apartment providers as to the University calendar, and the impact of having a large number of students checking in and out of their facility during a condensed period of time.
Marketing to Students
• Assess the information that you send in your opening/check-in mailing. Eliminate information that is not pertinent for students living in off-campus locations (example: do not send linen sale information about twin-sized beds to students living in a hotel with double-sized beds).
• Think about the things that students need to know to relocate to and live-in an off-campus location. Prepare publication materials that highlight this information. Information that should be included relates to establishing utilities, phone service, Internet access, laundry locations, nearby shopping options, information on amenities or oddities related to their housing accommodations, etc. Send this information with check-in materials.
• In setting your rate costs for off-campus locations, consider amenities and price comparatively with on-campus accommodations. In room rate marketing materials, show both the billing rate, and the cost for additional estimated expenditures semester.
Projecting Occupancy Levels
• Understand that although students want housing, what you have to offer may not be what they desire. Project occupancy levels in off-campus locations conservatively.
Prior to Move-In
• Some apartment complexes will require the University to make special arrangements with Utility companies to place leased apartments in their name. If this is the case, determine what strategies you will use to educate and motivate students to make personal arrangements for utility costs, prior to their arrival on-campus.
• Modify existing apartment condition reports to meet the need of your off-campus location. Inspect all apartments prior to move-in, and assess and bill for damages when students move from the unit. In many instances, the decision to secure off-campus accommodations is made late in the summer. MAKE the time to inspect units prior to the arrival of your students.
• Work in advance with your off-campus provider to understand their billing structure for damages. Market these costs to students when they arrive, to encourage damage reduction and apartment cleanliness prior to move-out.
• Consider what will happen programmatically in the facility, and what role will the staff assigned in the facility assume. Set staffing levels accordingly.
• Consider current full-time Student Affairs employees who might be willing to serve in liaison roles between students and management, in exchange for free or half cost housing and a small stipend.
• If leasing from another University, research and resolve details related to the different policies that define staff roles (i.e. your policy may not require a staff presence in the building on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but the University from which you lease space may expect staff availability in the building).
• Prior to move-out, market the costs for cleaning and maintenance repairs to your residents. If high standards for cleanliness are required on the part of Management, inform students of this and the related billing implications.
• After move-out, walk through all Units with Management to come to joint closure as to billing costs.
Other Things to Consider
• Understand that the lack of on-campus space may be frustrating to your students. Make programmatic decisions carefully, as frustrations about overcrowding and high enrollments may make your students annoyed.
• While involved in high enrollment situations, form allegiances with Student Government and your Resident Student Association. Meet on an ongoing basis with representatives from these groups regarding issues and concerns.
Submitted by Terri Scanlon, Managing Director, ResLife.Net