National Student Housing Council Sees Surge in Freshman College Applications

Washington, D.C.--A report from the National Student Housing Council finds that, despite the recession, colleges are receiving more applications than they were a couple years ago.

Washington, D.C.—A new white paper from the National Student Housing Council, a subsidiary of the National Multi Housing Council (NMHC), finds that the recession has not impeded college enrollment. In fact, the number of applications colleges are receiving has increased, quite substantially at some schools.

The report compared enrollment applications at 56 public and private universities. Pairing the number of freshman applications in fall 2008 against the number in fall 2010, on average, applications went up by 20 percent. Twenty-three of the schools reported a gain of 25 percent or more, with the biggest increase recorded by the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa (56 percent). Only four schools showed a drop in freshman applications.

The report, titled “Enrollment Trends in the Recession,” delivers encouraging news to those in the off-campus student housing industry, especially considering how the rest of the economy is still struggling. It cites strong demographics as a driver of enrollment, characterized by the 78 million echo-boomers at or approaching college age.

However, Jim Arbury, NMHC’s vice president of student housing, warns firms against getting eager ideas about jumping into the business of student housing without first doing their homework. It is a sector, after all, with unique and demanding requirements, which Arbury says has seen serious overbuilding on some campuses.

“A student housing investment can turn sour fast and is very unforgiving if a property is brought to market without proper management or with improper analysis of a given market,” Arbury tells MHN. “Starting out gradually into this sector and buying an existing property is much safer than building new, and is the prudent course for those who have not yet acquired seasoned knowledge.”

The white paper will be discussed at the 2011 NMHC Student Housing Conference & Exposition on Oct. 3 and 4 at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.