In recent years, colleges have devoted substantial parts of their total budget towards improving student housing. In order to appeal to new students, many universities have opted for luxuries and tech-enabled amenities that, until now, would seem over the top. However, because of increased competition in the marketplace, such factors can have a large impact on both enrollment and student satisfaction.
Like it or not, many colleges are privately owned and operated—they’re businesses. As such, they need to continuously attract new students while keeping their current enrollees. And in today’s in today’s competitive environment, student housing amenities matter for freshmen.
Curious what actions other colleges are taking? Check out these 7 tech-enabled student housing amenities to see how and why they resonate with students.
7 Eye-Opening Tech-Enabled Student Housing Amenities
Student housing has changed dramatically in recent times. What used to be squat, spartan, buildings crammed with three students to a room have evolved into accommodations more reflective of a hotel than military barrack. According to Multifamily Executive:
Apartment size is a significant driver behind student housing decisions, ranking as “extremely important” by 65 percent of survey respondents. For the most part, students show a preference for living in either a mid-rise building (38 percent) or a community cottage or townhouse (33 percent). Only 13 percent would most like to live in a single-family home, with an even smaller portion (9 percent) preferring a high-rise. Only 7 percent said they’d prefer micro units.
This preference has been reflected in terms of design and layout, particularly in new dormitories and apartments.
But besides size and space, what are amenities that college students want?
There are few things as regularly noted as a top priority for young people as a strong Wi-Fi signal. From laptops, to electronic devices, to their phones, everything runs on it. Just consider all of the activities a student might need high-speed internet for:
- Doing homework
- Participating in online classes or lectures
- Connecting with friends or family on social media or via video services
- Downloading movies, music, and videos
- Playing video games
- Watching streaming services
Most every student will have multiple devices. Things college students want include accessing them wherever they may be (from the dorm to their rooms to their lobby). This means that Wi-Fi infrastructure needs to be set up to handle the various users. Multifamily Executive writes: “The most important thing in student housing has become the Internet. And the second-most important thing is the Internet and the third most-important thing is the Internet.” Knowing this, many campuses have proactively upgraded their Wi-Fi network, signed up for a premium bandwidth, or worked with networks to install high-speed internet and 4G LTE services.
Digital Fitness Centers
In response to some alarming mental health trends amongst GenZ, colleges have placed special emphasis on the importance of physical and mental health in their student body. They believe that focusing on this will help students manage the stresses of college life and thus improve their academic performance.
While most every campus will invest heavily in a primary gym/rec center, a new tech-centric approach that many schools are turning to is adding smaller, cutting-edge fitness centers in each dormitory. These gyms can be used for a variety of fitness-related purposes, the most common being:
- Yoga studios
- Peloton and spin rooms
Such fitness centers use on-demand video technology with TVs or projection screens that allow students to select a workout and start sweating. This convenience is a huge draw, particularly for students that are busy. Also, it reduces traffic in the main gyms, which benefits everyone.
Smart Parcel Lockers
Although snail mail is no longer in its heyday, students still receive their fair share of mail. While university mailrooms are capable of handling the various letters, bills, magazines, etc., they’re not equipped to manage the steady influx of packages being sent to campuses daily. This overflow has resulted in the following issues:
- Unorganized stacks of packages filling up the mailroom or student mail services center—leading to loss, damage, and theft.
- Hours of time spent by mail services staff accepting, sorting, storing and/or delivering packages.
- An inefficient pick-up system with limited hours, which requires students to waste time waiting in line just to see if their student internet package has arrived.
Parcel Pending lockers are:
- Smart – They have infrared scanners that sort and detect packages in each locker.
- Secure – Optional 24/7 cloud-video surveillance which monitors all drop-offs and pickups.
- Trackable – Fully automated log; 100% chain-of-custody visibility for all deliveries and pick-ups.
- Mobile-friendly –Students receive instant delivery notifications via text or email
- Customizable – Custom colors and wraps to match school colors, mascots or campus settings.
- Convenient – 24/7 self-service package access, no signage required.
- Efficient – Streamlines delivery process; flexible solutions reduce space needed to accept deliveries
Tech-Centric Study Rooms
Students need a perfect place where they can work—either in groups or as individuals—free from distraction. Common rooms or even dorm rooms are often filled with many interruptions, which is why several universities have made a concerted effort to not only add study rooms to campus housing, but to add smart features that improve learning, collaboration, and focus.
Technologies that are often included are:
- Sound proofing
- Desktop systems that students can use
- Printers and supplies
- Smartboards for collaboration
All of these features in a study space help contribute to an environment that fosters scholarship and can promote schools.
Modern Laundry Facilities
For years, there were few things that students disliked more than doing laundry. They’d either wait until they could go home or wear everything they owned until they were forced to take action. It makes sense why they viewed university laundry services unfavorably, since there were typically:
- Expensive units that required handfuls of coins
- A limited number of washers and dryers
- Students who left their items in the machines for hours
- Opportunity for their clothes to be stolen or moved
- Washers or dryers that only worked moderately
Today, however, colleges are leveraging new technology in order to optimize this hated task. As Nxtbook writes:
ESU decided it would turn to technology that students were quite familiar with: an app. Utilizing networking that links all machines and sends information to the cloud, the app allows students to not only check machine availability, but also to see where washers and dryers were in the cycle; the app also alerts them when their loads are nearing the end of their cycle.
Smart washers and dryers improve the student laundry experience immensely. They optimize the entire process, which results in positive feedback from everyone. And although this may seem like a small change, such an upgrade can be a major draw for students.
Keyless Room Entry
Keys are a hassle. And while they worked at one point, they’re becoming obsolete in the digital age. Now, a growing number of universities are turning towards systems that utilize FOBs, student IDs, or smartphones to gain access to their residence hall and unlock their door. As American School and University puts it:
For many years, the solution to this problem [lost keys] has been keyless access-control systems that use swipe or contactless cards to allow authorized users into a campus facility. As technology improves and card systems can be equipped with more functions, the appeal of card-based access-control systems has grown for administrators and facility managers.
These systems increase security, accountability, and prevent someone from simply copying a key and using that to illegitimately gain entry.
When GenZ goes to college, they are more environmentally conscious than any generation previously. They care about their ecological impact and energy consumption. As such, they also want to live in a place that shares their eco-friendly principles. According to U.S. News:
Increasingly, as universities are seeing more student demand for such programs [environmental studies], they are acknowledging that this is part of their obligation as the entity that is preparing students for success in the future… In addition to curbing carbon emissions, some schools have seen environmental interest and activism translate into initiatives to ban plastic water bottles and build or refurbish campus buildings so that they are LEED certified. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, meaning facilities have met certain energy-efficiency requirements.
A growing number of colleges are turning to green technologies in dorms in order to increase sustainability, such as:
- Solar panels
- Energy smart appliances
- LED lighting
- Low-flow showerheads and toilets
- Retrofitting buildings heating and AC
Universities understand that the upfront investments will not only teach students about conservation but will also make an impact on the university’s carbon footprint.
Improving Student Housing
From smart lockers to digital fitness centers, there are a host of student housing amenities that can and do improve student life. By investing in the places where students spend a majority of their time, colleges demonstrate that they care about their wards’ academic, emotional, and physical well-being. And if current trends in college student housing are any indicator, the technological upgrades are only beginning.
Moving forward, high-tech, luxury amenities will likely become the norm—not the exception.
- Multifamily Executive. Head of the Class: 5 Key Student Housing Amenities. https://www.multifamilyexecutive.com/technology/high-end-student-housing-amenities-just-expected_o
- Multifamily Executive. Survey Says: The Top Student Housing Common-Areas and Amenities. https://www.multifamilyexecutive.com/property-management/apartment-trends/survey-says-the-top-student-housing-common-areas-and-amenities_o
- Nxtbook. Laundry Revolution. http://read.nxtbook.com/acuho/talking_stick/july_august_2019/laundry_revolution.html
- American School and University. Keyless Access. https://www.asumag.com/safety-security/access-control-visitor-management/article/20850602/keyless-access
- U.S. News. Why College Campuses Are Going Green. https://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2019-09-17/why-college-campuses-are-going-green