Say goodbye to the stereotype of the frivolous college student who racks up debt and spends with abandon.
Today’s students are much more budget-conscious, and they’re particularly sensitive to the costs of student housing.
Students still want the right location and great amenities, but they are looking very carefully at all their options before they commit to a lease.
Many college students and recent graduates today were either in college or high school during the height of the recent recession. These students watched their families struggle with financial hardships like joblessness and upside-down mortgages. They've come of age at a time when more than 44 million Americans hold college debt. As a result, many are focused on minimizing debt and stretching their rental dollars.
With large numbers of students reporting that it is more expensive to live in on-campus dorms, off-campus housing represents a way to stick to the budget. While parents have historically been the ones to be more concerned with housing costs, it is now students who are taking the lead on finding affordable options.
Multifamily Executive reports that students are doing research online and comparison-shopping to find the best deals — and they aren’t so easily swayed by promotional giveaways. Apartment communities that offer incentives like a free iPad or gift card in exchange for signing a lease are noticing that students are no longer taking the bait: these students are more interested in rent reductions than one-time gifts. It’s a signal to the rental industry that today’s students understand the true cost of housing.
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Modern students who recognize value still want the most bang for their bucks. When it comes to searching for off-campus apartments, renters report that they are primarily interested in practical amenities. Student housing communities are noting that basic perks like fast Internet, fitness centers, a business center with free printing, and dedicated parking spaces could persuade a student to sign a lease. Inside a unit, features like ample storage space, private bathrooms, and good cell reception are considered top priorities, as well.
But no matter what amenities an apartment community offers, location can still be a deal-breaker. Students say that the ability to walk to campus is highly desirable — more so than taking a bus, driving or biking to school — and housing that’s within one mile of campus is highly preferred.
Despite an overall trend towards budget-conscious living, the student housing industry recognizes a need to appeal to different types of students and their varying budgets with multiple price points. It’s a strategy that the hospitality industry has used successfully for decades.
Student housing developers are building several communities near a college campus and tailoring these communities to suit underclassmen vs. graduate students, who typically spend more on housing. Some communities will even differentiate themselves according to design style or floor plan. Just as travelers have a choice between a swanky luxury hotel with a spa and a restaurant, or a more moderately-priced hotel that might have a pool, students can choose between multiple price points and options according to their financial comfort levels and lifestyle desires.
Another option students often turn to is financial aid. Most colleges make a number of resources available to their students for finding grants, scholarships and other forms of financial assistance. Generally, however, it is difficult to find aid programs that will contribute funds toward housing costs.
The Apartment Guide Scholarship, launched in 2018, allows winners to use their scholarship funding on tuition, books or housing-related expenses, including rent.
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Read more: Student Housing Guide