When asked to picture a college student, the typical representation is a young adult – anywhere between 18-22 years old. They are probably wearing jeans and possibly a shirt emblazoned with the name of the institution that they attend. While that image fits the simple majority of students, it doesn’t represent all of them.
Despite the overall numbers of students enrolled in higher education decreasing, the number of non-traditional students attending classes has been steadily increasing. In fact, research from Higher Learning Advocates shows that in Pennsylvania 37% of college students today are over 25.
Higher education institutions understand the importance of evolving and changing with the times; making campus updates is among the top priorities from year to year. Rather than initiate a large construction project, institutions are staying current with small-scale interior renovations to underutilized areas of campus that need reimagining.
Combining interior renovations with upgraded furniture can provide a large impact through projects that can be completed in a shorter timeframe and don’t exhaust the annual budget. These quick-hitting projects aim to improve the value an institution provides to its students and reinforce the branded experience intended for campus.
Dropping Your Child Off at College: A Parent’s Perspective
The end of summer brings many things: shorter days, cooler weather and the first day of classes. For first-time college students, moving day and the prospect of living away from home for the very first time can be an exciting time. From the rush of receiving an acceptance letter to the campus that was first choice to the hours spent shopping to get the perfect accessories to decorate a new room, it’s a non-stop adventure.
As a firm that provides higher education planning and design, we focus on the campus experience and how it affects students, faculty, staff and parents. Lessons learned from our own teams’ experience offer insights that we can apply to future design. Two of our RLPS team members who recently dropped off their children at college for their first year were nice enough to share their experiences. Along with recounting how moving went, they also let us know how their kids… and they are adjusting.
The parents on our staff began with completely opposite levels of experience with preparing and dropping off children at college. One parent was moving their youngest of three children to an out-of-state university, a few hours’ drive away. The other was moving their oldest child to a college closer to home. Despite the marked difference in the distance travelled and parental familiarity with moving kids to college, they had similar experiences and feelings.
How Community Partnerships Can Benefit Your Institution and the Surrounding Community
This topic was the focus of a panel discussion at the AICUP Campus Leaders Forum held in Harrisburg, PA on June 15th.
“We need to see ourselves no longer as an ivory tower surrounded by walls or fences but in the midst of the economies of which we exist and upon which we depend.” – Dominic DelliCarpini, Ph.D., York College of PA
While higher ed and industry have very different missions and cultures, there is a symbiotic relationship between the two. Finding a common ground for collaboration, research and work partnerships benefits everyone. As campus recruiting becomes more competitive, community partnerships serve as a positive differentiator and a valuable resource for long-term vitality.
For many young adults, college is the first time they’ve been on their own and away from their support network of family and close friends. COVID-19 made this time of sudden change even more stressful for many by limiting social interactions and activities while still expecting students to keep up with their courses. This dramatic and sudden change has highlighted the importance of student wellness design.
College campuses nationwide have reported higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. According to a survey by the American Council on Education, 72% of college and university presidents identified student mental health as a pressing issue for the 2021-22 school year. Mental health challenges can also result in less physical activity, eating too much or too little, making unhealthy food choices and sleep disruptions. As a consequence of the psychological stress, both physical well-being and academics can suffer.
As college and universities work to regain lost ground due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many face the reality of deferred student housing updates. Lingering uncertainties related to infection control, along with shifting demographics and student expectations heighten the need for action. Based on data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment declined by about 3.5% in fall 2021 from the previous year.
Changing societal norms and student expectations have catapulted campus bathroom updates to the top of the facilities priority list. Many older campus buildings, and particularly residence halls, have communal or “gang style” bathroom configurations. This former design standard maximizes efficiency and capacity – whether a bank of showers in a residence hall or public access restrooms in campus common areas. However, campuses can no longer rely on the status quo of the past.
Decreased funding, slowing enrollment, overwhelming student debt, and higher operating costs are just some of the challenges facing higher education. Now we must also take into consideration all of the realities that will shake out on campuses following a pandemic. Recruiting and retaining students is vital. Campus housing is a valuable marketing tool to attract students and keep them living on campus. Residence hall renovations preserve campus character and eliminate costly additional land development. These critical campus updates also convert existing housing into a valuable asset while promoting sustainability.
The advent of Building Information Modelling (BIM) has opened a whole new range of possibilities for three-dimensional digital design renderings. Not so long ago, when we wanted to share a new building or renovation design concept with our clients (and often their clients), the options were limited. We could either provide a hand sketch or three-dimensional physical building model, using clay, paper, foamcore, wood or other materials. The result was often beautiful and effective for sharing the project vision. But it was also time consuming, static and, relatively speaking, a costly added expense. These realities limited the use of these methodologies.
In the wake of a 13% drop in enrollment for 2020-2021, colleges and universities are considering new strategies to attract students. Priorities have shifted for students and staff as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Sustainable design standards have likewise adapted with offerings such as the WELL Health-Safety Seal to help foster trust and encourage a return to pre-pandemic campus life.
The International WELL Building Institute is just one of several organizations to develop specialized standards to address the renewed focus on infection control and safely reopening indoor environments. The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), the Center for Active Design, and RESET have each developed modules to help facility managers measure, improve and monitor air quality, sustainability, and/or health and wellness strategies.