When students consider a new place to live, they always list more amenities as a reason for finding a new residence. Over the years, owners of purpose-built student housing communities have become more competitive with amenities offered to students.
Now, going beyond that, Campus Evolution Villages (CEV), one of the larger owner/managers of student housing in the U.S., has begun offering services to its residents and college students across the country.
The company has focused on delivering an experience to students through its management that they won’t get elsewhere, says Evan Denner, the company’s co-founder and chief investment officer. The company’s touches are subtle, but create an effect like the brands of Apple or Virgin Airlines, where customer experience is prevalent and loyalty is created. To assist its student residents with their needs, the company is now providing students across the country with a unique renters insurance policy that not only covers their contents, but also covers their electronic devices with a low deductible that makes the choice simple, even over mom and dad’s homeowners policy. CEV also tries to make the college experience seamless from living at home via a service called CampusMD. The company also offers residents tech support for their electronic devices through a third-party company for a monthly fee.
CEV has also launched Company X, an early stage investment company that makes investments in student led businesses across the country. In addition to making a monetary investment, Company X invests its time mentoring students, resources and opens its rolodex to these student entrepreneurs. CEV has also partnered with office retailer Staples to provide significant resident discounts as well as “delivery to your doorstep” service.
Another innovation CEV has introduced is a student-focused website it has launched and operates called Fusfoo.com. The site — targeted at those aged 16 to 28 — provides thoughtful, smart content in a very digestable format. Recent posts included “Alibaba — What You Should Know;” “Occupy Hong Kong;” and “An Ivy League Degree Doesn’t Cure Depression.”
“Fusfoo is designed as a place where students can get thoughtful, smart content, and discover what’s meaningful and going on in the world,” says Denner. He adds, “We recognize today that the demographic as a whole is encumbered by significant loan debt and suffers from an extraordinarily high rate of unemployment for recent graduates, with the result that many have to take jobs that they are less interested in or at lower pay. So, excuse us if we are not fascinated or so interested in what color bikini Kim Kardashian wore last weekend or that Mama June splits from Sugar Bear. We simply want to deliver content, both written and video, to our demographic that in some way helps them achieve what they aspire.”
All told, the amenities add to CEV’s proposition of being a partner to its residents and college students in general.
“We will never offer anything to our residents, our site visitors or the demographic at large that has zero value proposition to them or for them,” says Denner.
Like many student housing owners, CEV has been approached by product-oriented companies seeking to market goods to the company’s captive audience. CEV, seeing no benefit, has turned down partnerships with many brand names. Creating partnerships that add value to the resident experience, however, has become a winning proposition for both residents and the company.
The insurance policy, created through National Student Services, Inc. and Worth Ave. Group, covers the contents of students’ apartments as well as all of their electronics. While many student housing owners and managers require renters’ insurance, many policies do not cover residents’ electronic devices. This, says Denner, sets CEV’s policy apart from other offerings.
“If we were only going to have a policy that covers their contents, I’m not sure we would have proceeded with it,” says Denner. “In our eyes, we felt that the electronics coverage was something unique and that the demographic needs. “
CampusMD offers residents a service that allows them to connect to a physician or physician’s assistant via Skype. This allows the student to skip the campus health center for routine illnesses like sinus infections, colds and other common ailments.
CampusMD, CEV’s renters insurance and information technology support through CampusTech can all be had for a nominal monthly fee for residents. Renters insurance runs $12.50 per month to $22.50 per month depending on coverage; Campus MD runs $18 per month; and IT support through CampusTech is $9.99 per month. For many students, the plans offer value exceeding the cost, says Denner.
Company X and Staples have no fees, but they add to the overall CEV experience.
Arranging the service programs for a student demographic hasn’t been easy for CEV. It took the company over a year working with an insurance company to create a policy that it felt was a good value for its renters and their parents.
“Campus Evolution Villages is focused solely on delivering only what our residents need in terms of programs,” says Denner. “We want to offer them services that make their lives easier and enhance the experience they are having while in college.”
— Randall Shearin