47 Essential Student Housing Statistics You Must Learn: 2021/2022 Data & Demographics

From the first student cottages of the 1870s to today’s modern dormitories, student housing remains essential to college students everywhere. These accommodations provide convenience, especially for students from distant places. Additionally, dormitories and student housing serve as a venue for students to socialize and mingle with their peers.

Student housing also forms a sizable portion of the real estate market and investments around the world. Global investment into purpose-built student accommodations (PBSA) exceeded $16 billion in 2018 (Knight Frank, 2019). And although the COVID-19 pandemic was predicted to affect the sector, PSBA investment activity in the US still amounted to $1.58 billion in 2020 (Newmark Knight Frank, 2020).

In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look into the statistics of college students living on campuses, as well as other important student housing statistics. We’ve also put together the numbers behind the student housing market today.

student housing statistics

General Student Housing Statistics

Student housing has come a long way since the first purpose-built student cottages at the University of California. Today, these accommodations serve as a home for a more diverse selection of students. Student housing trends also point to the fact that students today have more choices aside from residence halls and dormitories, like purpose-built student accommodation and off-campus housing. However, with the ongoing pandemic, the demand for student housing is declining.

  • Only 22% of university students in the US live in on-campus dormitories. 55% of US university students live in other types of rental housing, while the remaining 23% live in purpose-built, off-campus housing. (National Real Estate Investor, 2018)
  • However, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the vacancy rate grew by 270 basis points to 7.9% in 2020. (Moody’s Analytics, 2020)
  • Numbering 8.6 million, student beds account for 12% of the total number of US rental units. (NMHC, 2020)
  • The majority of student housing beds—61%—is in the South, with 19% in the Midwest, 13% in the West, and the remaining 6% in the Northeast. (NMHC, 2020)
  • Occupancy levels for on- and off-campus housing remain consistently high, with 2018 occupancy levels at 95%. (CBRE, 2019)
  • However, 79% of on-campus housing officers say their institutions were planning to maintain existing on-campus housing facilities amid COVID-19 as potential quarantine spaces. (CBRE, 2020)
  • International students are a key demographic for the student housing market, with 1,095,299 international students enrolled in US colleges and universities in 2019. (IIE, 2019)
  • Moreover, according to international student housing statistics, New York University hosts 19,605 international students in 2019, the highest in the country. (IIE, 2020)
  • But, with international student enrollments dropping by 43% due to the pandemic, the demand for international student housing may also drop. (Inside Higher Ed, 2020)

off-campus housing

Market Size and Industry Leaders

Interestingly, the student housing market remains strong in the US, even amid the pandemic. Investment volumes in the country have been on the high side since 2010. Additionally, annual investments in student housing in the US have reached nearly $11 billion (CBRE, 2019), triple the investment volume in 2014.

  • Mortgage loans taken by student housing property companies amounted to $18.2 billion across 1,066 loans as of May 2020. (S&P Global, 2020)
  • In 2019, over $5.8 billion of capital flowed into the student housing sector. (Newmark Knight Frank, 2019) 
  • Cross-border investment is accounted for about 40% of total investment in student accommodation. (Knight Frank, 2019)
  • For the 70 largest four-year universities, 55% of the rental student housing market is less than 10 units in size. (NMHC, 2018)
  • At 80%, the majority of rental stock for student housing offers less than 50 units. (NMHC, 2020)
  • The University of Illinois is the top location in the US in terms of developing private purpose-built student accommodations, with plans to deliver 2,620 beds in 2020. (Knight Frank, 2019)
  • The majority of the student housing market, 78% to be exact, was built in the last 20 years. (NMHC, 2020)
  • Fewer than 20 companies own 25 or more properties in the student housing market. (NMHC, 2020)
  • The top owner of student housing in the US is American Campus Communities, with 169 properties and 104,078 beds. (CBRE, 2019)
  • The student housing pre-leasing level for the fall semester of 2020 stood at 74.9% as of June 2020, which was around 500 basis points lower than the previous year. (National Real Estate Investor, 2020)
  • However, June 2020 also saw a month-over-month pre-leasing level increase of about 6%, which is about the same pace of increase in the previous year. This indicated that the pre-leasing sector was recovering from the April and May 2020 slump. (National Real Estate Investor, 2020)

Source: CBRE

Student Housing Supply

The development of on- and off-campus accommodations for students continues at a steady rate. However, student housing statistics in terms of supply provides some interesting insights. Colleges and universities in the southern US, for instance, tend to offer the highest number of off-campus beds (RealPage, 2019). On the other hand, students can count on universities in the northeastern US to have a higher availability of on-campus beds.

  • It is estimated that in 2021, there will be a total of 2.84 million student housing beds in the US. (Statista Estimates, 2020)
  • Universities and colleges in the US expect to add roughly 47,000 beds for their students. (RealPage, 2019)
  • The country’s 175 largest universities can provide on-campus accommodations for only 21.5% of undergraduates. (CBRE, 2019)
  • The off-campus bed-to-total enrollment ratio is, on average, 16.9%. (RealPage, 2019)
  • However, 2021 is expected to be a relatively quiet year with only 39,000 beds forecast to be occupied. (MHN, 2020)
  • Florida State University has the most off-campus beds for students, with a 69.1% ratio of off-campus beds to total enrollment. (RealPage, 2019)
  • Aside from universities that offer no off-campus beds for students, the University of California-Los Angeles offers the least number of off-campus beds per student: only 182 off-campus beds for 33,317 students. (RealPage, 2019)
  • Meanwhile, Eastern Illinois University offers the most on-campus beds per student, with an on-campus bed-to-total enrollment ratio of 76.6%. (RealPage, 2019)
  • Aside from universities offering no on-campus beds, California State University Fresno offers the fewest on-campus beds, with only 1,100 on-campus beds available for 25,168 students. (RealPage, 2019)

average size of student housing

Demand for Student Housing

Occupancy rates in student housing in 2020 are still steady but the demand may be lower than in previous years. One factor that may contribute to this is the decision of some schools to hold classes online than in-person. In some cases, however, demand has merely shifted from shared rooms to private ones due to the pandemic.

  • Around 8.6 million students need rental housing near campus. (NMHC, 2020)
  • Universities with 100% occupancy have seen high enrollment growth. For instance, Boise State University reports a 100% occupancy rate and an enrollment growth of 5.7% in 2018. (RealPage, 2019)
  • The University of Alabama reports the lowest pre-leasing in August, at 80.3%. (RealPage, 2019)
  • Student housing demand shifted to private rooms during the pandemic. More students are choosing to pay more to get a private room. Students’ purchasing behavior pointed to a 71% decrease in lower-cost bookings. (ICEF Monitor, 2020)

Source: Reis

Student Preferences in Accommodations

College students often have a variety of preferences when it comes to their living space at universities and the amenities these accommodations offer. These preferences often include privacy features, proximity to the campus, and technology such as WiFi. The demand for high-quality student housing also makes a compelling case for the use of the best real estate management software.

  • More than 78% of students confirmed that the availability of high-quality student housing affected their choice of college or university. (NAA, 2018)
  • The top 3 accommodation amenities students ranked most important in 2018 are WiFi (78%), laundry (77%), and utilities (71%). (Student Housing Business, 2018)

Source: Student Housing Business

Rent and Housing Costs

Student housing in the US can cost a pretty penny, especially with luxury apartments spreading in the vicinity of college campuses. A variety of factors affect rent and housing costs for college students, including a property’s proximity to the campus and the amenities provided by the property. Additionally, room and board tend to be more expensive at privately owned institutions.

When you look at the reasons not to go to college statistics, living expenses easily find their way into the list. The increasing costs of student housing make for an even heavier burden for college students facing higher tuition fees.

  • The average student housing rent per year for on-campus residence halls costs $7,717 per bed. (NMHC, 2018)
  • On-campus apartments charge an average rent of $7,056 annually, while off-campus purpose-built student accommodations cost $10,965 in rent per year. (NMHC, 2018)
  • Off-campus student-competitive accommodations are associated with the highest annual rent costs, at $13,093. (NMHC, 2018)
  • Rent for student housing for fall 2019 grew 1.8%, compared to 2018’s rent growth rate of 1.6%. (NAA, 2018)
  • Student accommodations located less than half a mile from campus saw rent growth of 2.1% in 2019, compared to a 1.0% growth for properties more than a mile from campus. (NAA, 2018)
  • Students paid 9% more annually to live in student-competitive apartments compared to purpose-built apartments. (NMHC, 2018)
  • On average, college students paid 26% less in rent for an on-campus apartment compared to an off-campus purpose-built housing unit. (NMHC, 2018)
  • For purpose-built student accommodations, every additional mile away from campus brought a 17% discount. (NMHC, 2018)
  • Private-school accommodations tend to offer a higher average per-bed annual rent at $8,148 compared to the $7,553 annual per-bed rent of public-school accommodations. (NMHC, 2018)

cost of college room and board

Role of Location in Housing Costs

  • Berkeley, California, has the highest off-campus monthly housing costs at $2,263 per month, while Tallahassee, Florida, has the lowest off-campus monthly housing costs at $593. (Trulia, 2018)
  • Students in Berkeley, California, also pay the highest on-campus monthly housing costs at $1,861. On the other hand, students in Provo, Utah, pay the lowest on-campus monthly housing costs of $417. (Trulia, 2018)
  • Bowling Green State University in Ohio posted the highest rent growth in 2019, with rent going up by 7.5%. (NAA, 2019)
  • Student beds in large city urban areas have a 56% premium for student-competitive units, a 52% premium for on-campus options, and a 32% for purpose-built student accommodation options. (NMHC, 2018)

Source: RealPage

The Future of Student Housing

The student housing market enjoys a unique quality: the market tends to maintain a steady demand through recession periods. This is particularly supported by the findings that pre-leasing levels are getting back on track after a brief disruption during the onset of the pandemic. Furthermore, even if some classes are now held online, many international students chose to stay in the US and remained housed in student accommodations. Additionally, enrollment rates usually rise as the job market weakens. These qualities ensure stable growth for the student housing market.

The outlook looks especially rosy for the student housing market in the US, where demand is expected to stay at the same rate in the near future. Factors like tighter competition among property developers and consistent yields for student housing all contribute to the current state of the US student housing market.

All of these numbers bode well for higher education in general, albeit with the attendant issues of their own.



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James Anthony

By James Anthony

A senior FinancesOnline writer on SaaS and B2B topics, James Anthony passion is keeping abreast of the industry’s cutting-edge practices (other than writing personal blog posts on why Firefly needs to be renewed). He has written extensively on these two subjects, being a firm believer in SaaS to PaaS migration and how this inevitable transition would impact economies of scale. With reviews and analyses spanning a breadth of topics from software to learning models, James is one of FinancesOnline’s most creative resources on and off the office.

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