New normal for community colleges graphic

The New Normal: Community College Housing

Community Colleges are facing a spike in enrollment due to COVID-19 altering the plans of many students across the nation from attending a university. David Braden, Vice President of Asset Management at Servitas, discusses what community colleges may experience in the short-term for enrollment and what they should consider as they look to the future.


Short-term Impact on Enrollment due to Recession
In February and March of 2020, a student housing consulting firm in Chicago surveyed high school seniors prior to the COVID-19 pandemic asking if they would choose a two-year college over a four-year college and why. Since that report was issued approximately half of those students indicated they will attend community college instead of a university due to uncertain fall openings.

Based on this study colleges could face an increase in enrollment this fall which could lead to a significant gap in community college on-campus housing in the coming years. College enrollment trends have historically risen during recessions, in fact, between 2007 and 2011, during the Great Recession, enrollment increased nearly 30% nationwide.


Longer-Term Factors Impacting Enrollment

In the past decade, tuition costs at private and public four-year universities skyrocketed between 26% – 35% respectively. These sharp increases make four-year universities cost prohibitive for an increasing number of students, which is why many have enrolled at their local community college instead.

However, these students are still eager to get the “full college experience” but need an affordable tuition option. Community colleges can offer an excellent opportunity for a live-learn environment by providing on-campus housing to meet these


For the Students
Community colleges have additional challenges due to higher percentage of low-income students and lower graduation rates. Full-time enrollment is associated with better performance, a deeper feeling of engagement in their studies and the campus community tend to provide students with a positive peer effect. By providing on-campus housing, students are encouraged to enroll full-time.

Research supports the notion that on-campus student housing results in higher graduation rates. This becomes especially true when the on-campus experience is purposefully structured toward student learning and engagement. It is important for many community colleges to fill this gap and provide students with opportunities for affordable live-learn environments.

For the College
With over 2,100 community colleges only 80 offer on-campus housing which is still relatively small, but this number keeps steadily growing. Below is an important perspective recently provided by the Community College Research Center, a leader in the field of community college research and reform for over 20 years.

By offering on-campus housing could benefits the college with:
• Higher revenue
• Increased student enrollment
• Greater diversity with the student population



Navigating the roadmap for student housing can seem daunting, however, since Servitas has worked hand-in hand with dozens of community colleges to support their growing needs by providing on-campus housing solutions, we can assist colleges with this endeavor. As an experienced on-campus housing development and management firm, we have worked successfully to deliver housing at  Blinn at Mill Creek HallNational Park College-Dogwood Hall and Orange Coast College- The Harbour. Both National Park College and Orange Coast College are first-time student housing projects that will open in August 2020. Partnerships are Servitas priority and it is our mission to turn our client’s vision of student housing into a reality. Contact us to learn more about how we helped finance our clients projects through a public-private partnership.s