10 Student Housing Trends for 2022/2023: Technology, Transport & Privacy

Universities and colleges are under constant pressure to provide residential facilities that match the needs and expectations of modern students. However, with ever-changing student housing trends, building amenities that foster socialization, engagement, and academic excellence has proved to be a hard nut to crack.

But this already compelling list of challenges is further made complicated with the emergence of COVID-19 in student housing and campuses in the United States and elsewhere. In this article, we’ll look into the latest trends in student housing that are shaping the future of this niche.

For universities, colleges, and student housing operators, understanding these trends will help them create safer and smarter buildings that will improve student health and retention rates. On the other hand, students can leverage this information to know what to expect from housing providers.

trends in student housing


Since the pandemic started, over 397,000 cases in more than 1,800 American colleges and universities had been recorded (New York Times, 2020). Despite this, US higher education officials allowed students to come back to their campuses for the fall semester. By August, a 55% upsurge in COVID-19 cases among young adults aged 18-22 was recorded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020).

It is within this pressing scenario that student housing in the U.S. must operate at present and likely for the years to come. In the past, some of the pressing problems in student housing often involve occupancy, rent collection, and other perennial issues in many student housing statistics.

COVID-19-driven challenges

Today, college and university officials and school housing managers are suddenly given a long list of new challenges to address. In general, this list is of emergent problems focused on the need to ensure the health and safety of students from COVID-19, preventing housing facilities from virus contamination, and keeping facilities operations financially viable.

A recent survey by the Association of College and University Housing Officers found that 70% of student housing officials have decided to or are intending to reduce bed counts or de-densify in their campus housing facilities (CBRE, 2020). In addition, 79% of on-campus housing administrators intend to convert already unoccupied on-campus dorms into possible quarantine facilities (CBRE, 2020). Overall, industry figures indicate that 88% of student housing spaces were occupied (NRE Investor, 2020).

Industry experts explain that the de-densification of on-campus housing will enable the off-campus student housing market to achieve positive occupancy rates while making up for any likely enrollment downtrends.

State of student housing in the United States 2020

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Sources: CBRE (2020), NRE Investor (2020)

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So here are the major trends that are shaping the student housing industry:

1. New house rules

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic continues to take shape worldwide, affecting almost every facet of our lives. For college and university students, their second homes have undergone a myriad of changes, from limited occupancy and face-mask wearing to social distancing and disinfection measures.

Upgraded sanitation measures

For school housing managers and staff, COVID-19 has initiated an entirely new set of cleaning protocols to ensure efficiency in mitigating the spread of COVID-19 inside student housing premises (REBusiness Online, 2020). At the minimum, these new best practices should include:

  • obligating every personnel to wear personal protective equipment
  • regularly disinfecting all common areas and amenities
  • utilizing hospital-grade electrostatic sprayers to decontaminate frequently-touched surfaces
  • installing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filtration systems.

Student housing protocols

Residents’ movement and stay should also be properly controlled. For instance, housing management must ensure that residents in shared rooms are given enough space to at least be 6 feet apart. To encourage social distancing, it is best to allow at least a 50% occupancy for an entire on-campus housing facility (University Business, 2020). Likewise, non-residents such as relatives or classmates should not be allowed to enter the premises at all times.

If possible, adding physical barriers like shower curtains or plastic screens in areas where it is difficult for residents to be at least 6 feet apart. If not possible, placing signages to maintain correct social distancing would help reduce in-person contamination. Moreover, residents should be required to always clean as they go.

Other considerations

Housing experts anticipate student housing management to introduce new technologies when building or renovating new student housing communities in the future. Housing managers should be encouraged to continue renovating buildings with keyless entries and installing package locker solutions. In fact, package locker systems with Bluetooth entry will likely be the norm in the near future, especially in student housing and campuses.

Moreover, other convenient contactless amenities will likely be offered soon, including touchless payment and ordering systems in cafeterias, package and food delivery lockers, and concierge-focused amenities.

student housing sanitation protocols

New student house rules trends highlights:

  • COVID-19 has introduced a whole new set of cleaning best practices for student housing facilities.
  • Many are installing upgraded air filtration systems and regularly disinfecting all amenities and common areas.
  • Resident students are also looking for convenient contactless or concierge-focused amenities.

2. Technology

Before the pandemic, colleges and universities across the United States have already been rolling out their long-term transition plans for remote learning in their respective communities. COVID-19 simply hastened this shift. In fact, the 2020 fall semester became the standard for the new distance learning environment. Because of this, American higher education institutions and student housing developers have accepted that the future’s norm will likely be a hybrid learning model.

To build an environment that supports pure or partial online learning, American student housing owners are allocating considerable investments in upgrading fast internet coverage to meet student technology requirements.

Smart Technologies

From IoT to AI, smart technology is transforming the student housing sector across the US. In other words, the new normal, when it comes to on-campus and off-campus student housing, will significantly involve technology and connectivity-powered housing space.

As a result, student housing management should guarantee seamless internet connectivity in their facilities. Thus, the typical throttled bandwidth or service interruptions will now become gone or brought to a minimum. And this trend also means that managers should consider residents’ behavior, such as making sure that WiFi is always accessible anywhere in the buildings.

Prior to the pandemic, Arizona State University installed 11, 000 Cisco access points (ASU, 2018), to handle the over 50,000 connections that happen on a typical day. Other campuses have gone all out to implement smart tech in student housing. However, the race is not won yet because, as of 2017, only 23% of institutions had the infrastructure (Century Link, 2017) to support emerging connected campus technologies.

Usage of campus tech

Technology highlights:

  • The pandemic has accelerated the shift of American academic institutions to embracing hybrid learning modalities.
  • Technology-enabled spaces have become the norm in college residences and communities.
  • Modern student housing facilities offer wireless access points and other essential tech features.

3. Modern, collaborative, safe spaces

The adage “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” rings true in the world of academia. Students need time off from their studies to engage, make new connections, and strengthen relationships. As such, student housing should offer collaborative spaces to nurture connections and support students to achieve academic success.

To align with this goal to engage students, modern design concepts feature flexible study spaces, lounges, laundries, kitchens, and recreation areas with comfy furniture. These indoor spaces allow students to accomplish tasks, meet, and have fun.

Moreover, nowadays, student housing comes with favorable amenities, such as faculty-in-residence, green screens, innovation incubators, ping pong tables, and maker spaces. Better still, institutions are creating comfortable outdoor spaces to support a range of educational, social, and recreational programming.

Post-pandemic student spaces

The COVID-19 outbreak has made significant changes to these, unfortunately. Post-pandemic student housing will likely witness modifications in conventional planning and circulation arrangements inside these structures.

New design concepts include noncontiguous corridors, more single rooms, spacious double rooms, and smaller clusters of suites. Likewise, more entrances will also be built to reduce congestion.

As the focus has shifted to student health, student housing decision-makers anticipate the construction of new kinds of spaces for individual well-being, with designs and spaces that support correct social distancing and compartmentalization of residents.

Since most of these plans have yet to materialize, students in both on- and off-campus housing facilities have experienced the adverse effects of the pandemic. A new survey found that some of the most pressing challenges students have undergone due to COVID-19 include stress, anxiety, and loneliness (44%), keeping up academically (21%), and having a space that is conducive for participating in class or for studying (14%).

Source: Strada Education Network (2021)

Modern, collaborative, safe spaces highlights:

  • 14% of students say that they need to have a space that will help them better participate in a class or for studying.
  • New design concepts include noncontiguous corridors, single rooms, larger double rooms, and smaller clusters of suites.
  • Designs and spaces for social distancing and compartmentalization of residents.

4. Going green

Even before the global health crisis, contemporary students are particularly environmentally aware. They have grown up in an era where information is easily accessible, and they’re not new to discussions about the importance of environmental conservation. As such, sustainability is ingrained in their minds, and they’re prepared to keep the fire burning.

In the same sense, institutions of higher learning don’t want to be the stumbling block to sustainability. Many colleges and universities are at the forefront of this revolution, striving to incorporate green features into their student housing design. Furthermore, the dignified scramble for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum status is in high gear with each institution yearning to unveil state-of-the-art green features.

The Greenest American Schools

In the US, Sierra Club has been ranking American colleges and universities based on their environmental commitments. While 2020 was an unusual year for every campus, it still came up with its annual list of 20 greenest schools in the US. At the top is the University of California, Irvine, whose laboratories have become a benchmark for other universities and national laboratories for energy efficiency. It also has a world-class ventilation system that can eliminate airborne pathogens, such as COVID-19 (Sierra Club, 2020).

In second place is Stanford University, which has a heat-recovery technology that recycles water and converts it to become thermal energy for heating campus facilities (Laboratory Equipment, 2020). Thompson Rivers University came in third place, which was the former greenest school in 2019.

Elsewhere, the University of West Scotland has taken the concept of sustainability and green tech to a new level with its $140 billion campuses in Lanarkshire. The campus buildings offer multiple green features, but the subtle one is that it’s carbon neutral. Besides, the campus is powered 100% by renewable energy from the Blantyre Muir Wind Farm. By ditching the old campus, the University of West Scotland has reduced its carbon footprint by 22% (The Guardian, 2018).

greenest american colleges and universities

Going green highlights:

  • Nowadays, students live in buildings that are designed to be sustainable.
  • Institutions are renovating old buildings and creating new buildings that are sustainable as they strive to earn top LEED status.
  • Besides, universities are encouraging students to embrace environmental accountability.

5. Increased privacy

One of the expected effects of the pandemic is the intensifying demand for privacy in student housing in the US and across the world. From the conventional preference for big-group units for six-person apartments, the trend in US student housing has now shifted to micro-units and studio-type dwellings as well as for single- and double-bedroom apartments.

The same is happening in developed regions such as the European Union, where occupancies had fallen to as much as 10% (BONARD, 2020). Property research specialist BONARD says that they expect changes in student housing booking preferences from shared to single rooms, especially among international students. This trend will be more pronounced in planned student housing projects that will be completed by 2022 (ICEF Monitor, 2020).

Still, colleges and universities aren’t going to abolish the shared room policy due to the lingering student housing shortage. However, the COVID-19 outbreak has compelled institutions to be more focused on addressing the urgent need for individual privacy. Interestingly, many are gradually deviating from the norm to meet this need. For example, many institutions have done away with the communal bathrooms in the residence halls. Besides, some are decreasing the number of students sharing a room.

Moreover, we now have suites that offer private spaces for students and noise control solutions. Some institutions are even offering spa bathrooms with private showers and toilet areas to optimize student comfort. More changes are on the way as institutions strive to make all types of students comfortable.

covid-19 impact on student housing occupancy

Increased privacy highlights:

  • COVID-19 has driven the student housing trend favoring studio-type and micro-units for single occupants.
  • Privacy has become a highly valuable amenity, especially due to the pandemic.
  • In addition, institutions of higher learning are tweaking their housing policies to offer a range of privacy levels.
  • Moreover, universities provide noise control solutions and private spaces to boost privacy.

6. Modes of transportation

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, people have suddenly refrained from using public modes of transportation. New surveys across the world investigated the change in people’s travel patterns due to the pandemic (Campisi et al., 2020). For instance, people have increased their reliance on using private vehicles, including biking and walking, to stay safe on the road (Abdullah et al., 2020). It has also caused a sudden increase in the use of bicycles and related services in the US (Statista, 2020).

A Lime Micromobility Report found that people are likely to embrace the trend toward greener, short-distance, community-centric, and more flexible types of transport, such as e-bikes and bicycles (Abdullah et al., 2020). Likewise, another study found that cycling, walking, and other active modes of travel are now becoming popular since these are healthy activities that can boost people’s immune systems especially during pandemics (Abdullah et al., 2020).

Before COVID-19, a majority of students brought cars to campuses, forcing housing communities to provide ample parking. Interestingly, this is not the case these days, thanks to the emergence of diverse transportation options. Nowadays, the number of students that bring cars to campuses is on a downward spiral.

Primarily, institutions of higher learning are advocating for eco-friendly transportation options. They are advising students to switch to alternative, cheaper, and energy-efficient means of transport such as bikes and cross-campus transit shuttle systems. Some universities are even teaming up with ride-sharing providers to lessen the need for parking spaces on campuses.

Sources: The NPD Group, Trek, Engine Insights, Statista (2020)

Modes of transportation highlights:

  • The pandemic has driven the shift toward active travel modes such as biking and walking.
  • The number of students bringing cars to campuses has dropped.
  • The prospects of alternative transportation options have taken the pressure to provide ample parking off the shoulders of student housing operators.
  • Moreover, institutions have brought cross-campus shuttle systems and carsharing services to students’ doorsteps.

7. Community and Resident Assistants’ new roles

Resident Assistants, commonly known as RAs, are an integral part of the student housing experience. For freshmen, RAs smoothen the transition from life in a parental home to the student-centric accommodation, which at times, can be overwhelming. Besides, with RAs available on- or off-campus, parents can rest easy knowing their children are in safe hands.

Today, nearly all student housing buildings have student paraprofessionals. While this has been the norm for decades, RAs are getting increased duties. Today, their overarching role is to enforce rules and regulations for residents. They are also tasked with ensuring healthy living for students on top of performing other admin, institution, and community-related jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, universities, colleges, and professional schools have the highest concentration of RAs at 10.7% (BLS, 2018). Further, their jobs had significantly increased and had become more complex due to the coronavirus outbreak (BU Today, 2020).

Being an RA today has become more stressful than ever before. They are now tasked to remind residents to wear masks, observe social distancing, and refrain from congregating in groups. RAs are also providing assistance to students in the proper use of bathrooms and other common places.

concentration of resident assistants

Community and resident assistants highlights:

  • Resident assistants have become the standard both on- and off-campus.
  • Resident assistants foster healthy student living.
  • Besides, RAs play a critical role in the student’s academic success.

8. Diverse unit types

In a bid to match the varying student housing preferences and needs, colleges are providing more diverse unit types. This is not an entirely new trend as it has been around since 2016, but it still impacts the way forward for student housing.

Apparently, universities and colleges are providing diverse unit types in response to emerging student lifestyles. Today, it’s barely a surprise to find a housing complex that blends quad-style, studio-style, and family apartments.

The desire to give students the freedom to live as they like has influenced this unique designed strategy. In 2018, it was revealed that 22% of students live in on-campus dormitories (NREI, 2018), 23% in modern, purpose-built student housing, and the rest live in other types of rental housing.

This way, students get the opportunity to make intelligent, personal life choices that are ideal for social and academic excellence. Besides, smart designs allow institutions to tweak the housing methodology to match their identity and culture, as and when they deem fit.

However, the pandemic has compelled student housing managers to favor fewer tenants per dwelling unit to keep COVID-19 contraction under control. For instance, Public Health – Seattle & King County in the State of Washington suggests that the best scenario is for each student to occupy a single housing unit with its own bathroom, while it is acceptable for 2-4 students to share an apartment-style unit with individual bedrooms and shared bathrooms (Seattle & King County, 2020).

Source: NREI

Diverse unit types highlights:

  • Universities offer multiple unit types built to meet increasing lifestyle preferences.
  • Besides, modern student housing facilities blend quad style, studio-style, and family apartments.
  • Interestingly, the new designs are beneficial to both students and institutions.

9. The Phasing Out of the ‘Dorm’

Traditionally, on-campus dormitories were simply places for students to live and nothing more. They were short of vital amenities or indoor spaces and offered no room for student engagement. It’s no surprise, then, that many students lived in off-campus housing, which was way better than on-campus residences.

Fast forward to today, the modern student housing buildings are redefining what we once called dormitories. Today’s on-campus student residence and communities look more and more like off-campus housing. They sport an urban feel and look, plus they are filled with state-of-the-art amenities to support students’ basic, social, and academic needs.

Most importantly, modern housing facilities are lively, sustainable, and engaging. They appeal to students, thanks to exquisite outdoor pools, hip coffee shops, technology-enabled study areas, and in-suite laundry spaces. Put simply, these residences and college communities provide the amenities that woo the current generation of students.

With the ongoing trend towards fewer occupants per room, the few remaining dorm-type accommodations will likely decrease faster than anticipated.

The phasing out of the dorm highlights:

  • Modern dorms are amenity-filled.
  • Besides, today’s student housing facility is more of a mixed-use apartment than the usual dorm.
  • Moreover, modern dorms offer ample spaces for entertainment and study.

10. Gender-Neutral Housing Policies

In the wake of intensified campaigns for gender inclusivity, exclusive male or female dorms are paving the way for co-ed housing. In fact, by 2009, nearly 90% of colleges and universities (Collegexpress, 2020) in the US had at least one gender-neutral dorm. While the trend started a decade ago, recently, a lot has been happening regarding co-ed housing policies.

Institutions have found a way to provide co-ed housing and still guarantee student privacy. For example, on the subject of bathrooms, some co-ed dorms offer gender-specific showers. Besides, there are multiple communal spaces to cook, hang out, and/or study.

For example, in 2019, Yale University gave its freshmen the novelty of living in gender-neutral rooms (Yale Daily News, 2019), consisting of two female students and two male students. The institution’s expansion of the mixed-gender housing policy embodies the ongoing student housing trend in higher education.

As of 2020, there are 271 colleges and universities across the US that already offer gender-inclusive housing (Campus Pride, 2021). And starting in 2021, Harvard University will be offering mixed-gender suites for freshmen, starting with the class of 2022.

gender-inclusive student housing in america

Gender-neutral housing highlights:

  • The exclusive male and female college communities are no longer the benchmark of student housing.
  • Institutions of higher education, including some Ivy League schools and a handful of the most expensive universities in the US, have embraced the idea of co-ed housing with open arms.
  • Interestingly, universities offering modern co-ed housing can guarantee multiple levels of privacy.

What Next for the Student Housing Space?

There is no doubt that the global health crisis has initiated lasting changes to how student housing should be designed, managed, and resided in. Aside from ensuring every student’s strict adherence to health protocols, student housing will likely do away with the traditional big-group units and favor single and double occupancies.

Likewise, with the entry of the iGeneration into universities and colleges, everything about student housing has changed. Unlike other generations, Gen Z students bring a unique set of needs and lifestyle preferences. Generation Z behaviors are nothing like what we’ve known before.

Modern technology has influenced Gen Z since they were born; hence, they are utterly selective when it comes to the amenities offered by college communities and residence. For example, increased privacy, comfy and technology-enabled study spaces, and car-sharing services are bare minimum requirements.

The lifestyle preferences of the iGeneration largely influence the trends, and student housing facts we discussed. Besides, the intrigues of modern technology play a significant role in the changes taking place in the industry, not the least the impact of multiple pieces of research on student stress statistics that are sure to disrupt the bigger universe that is campus premises. By considering these factors, housing operators have managed to create products that are not only aligned with the student’s demand but also resilient to the downward economic cycles.

Unfortunately, no one has the crystal ball to predict the future of the student housing industry. All you can do is to keep your ears to the ground and remain receptive to the imminent changes. In this way, you’ll deliver communities that are conducive to student socialization, unity, engagement, and academic success. Remember some student are enrolled in some of the most expensive degrees in the US; hence, should be afforded the comfort they need to perform well.



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Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Jenny Chang is a senior writer specializing in SaaS and B2B software solutions. Her decision to focus on these two industries was spurred by their explosive growth in the last decade, much of it she attributes to the emergence of disruptive technologies and the quick adoption by businesses that were quick to recognize their values to their organizations. She has covered all the major developments in SaaS and B2B software solutions, from the introduction of massive ERPs to small business platforms to help startups on their way to success.

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