Atlanta — Key points from some of the panels at the inaugural conference.
Atlanta — Last week, we wrote about the RFP and RFQ that the University System of Georgia unveiled at InterFace On-Campus Housing in Orlando. Below are highlights from some of the other panels that took place at the conference.
The State of On-Campus Housing: Utilizing Student Housing for Recruiting, Retention & Enrollment Management
Panelists discussed how student housing can be leveraged as an enrollment management tool. Accurate figures are the most important part of this process. Moderator Doug Brown, president of Capstone On-Campus Management, said that a university's housing program must be connected to enrollment management. "If your numbers are 1 percent off, freshmen will be living at the Holiday Inn," he said. Norb Dunkel, associate VP for student affairs, auxiliary operations for the University of Florida, said two typical ways that enrollment managers measure enrollment through housing include summer orientation numbers and campus housing contracts.
Institutional View of Public/Private Partnerships and Student Housing Revenue Streams
Panelists, each of whom had been involved in a P3, discussed the institutional perspective of these types of transactions. Bill Kloster, director of the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Real Estate Foundation, said that the goals of partnerships should be to stabilize and improve retention. He discussed a partnership that built two residence halls and two dining centers at his campus. Key lessons learned, Kloster said, include the importance of universities completing their due diligence before sourcing a firm from the private sector, or "to get your house in order before seeking a partner," he said. "There are multiple levels of control along the spectrum," said Moderator Joanie Millane, Principal of Millane Partners. "Shoot for your most cherished vision, but be prepared to compromise. P3s are a long-term partnership."
The Private Sector Perspective on Growth and Evolution in Public/Private Partnerships
The panelists in this session have all led their firms through numerous partnerships with universities. "The big difference between on-campus and off-campus is that many developers build a product off campus and replicate it over and over in other markets," said Capstone Development Partners Principal Jeff Jones. "Is there a typical P3 deal structure? P3s are anything but." Executive Vice President and Chief Investment Officer for EdR Tom Trubiana discussed his experience encountering institutional reaction to private equity. "A lot of universities fear a loss of control," he said. "The key to success is an alignment of interests." Jones added: "If something is wrong, parents or students will blame the university. We have a responsibility to our university partners." Bob Shepko, division president for Balfour Beatty Campus Solutions said many universities are looking to bundle revenue-producing assets, such as parking. American Campus Communities Executive Vice President of Public-Private Transactions Jamie Willhelm concurred: "An academic building doesn't produce revenue," he said. "Private partners tend to grab other revenue streams — rental rates, meal plans, parking — that are off-balance sheet to help non-revenue generating components."
The Changing Face of On-Campus Student Housing — What Trends and Forces Will Influence 21st Century Housing?
This panel turned toward the physical face of student housing, asking what does it look like, and what are architectsmost likely to build in the future? Bill Zeller, senior consulting specialist for The Scion Group said the value of a residential experience is more important than ever, but how it will take shape is hard to predict. Zeller noted an increasing trend of designing classrooms without residence halls, saying that more and more, students are receiving lectures, or being taught in non-traditional ways and not always in the classroom. Sometimes students take classes right where they live, he said. Jim Curtin, design principal with Solomon Cordwell Buenz added that living-learning facilities are often equipped with some type of lab, including an emerging media lab, which Curtin helped design into one housing project. Mike Evans, principal of Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas + Company discussed how group bathrooms were coming back en vogue. As a backlash against the trend to build privacy into virtually ever aspect of residence halls, architects are building in multiple layers of community and opportunities to connect, even in the bathroom.
— Lynn Peisner