Eduvation Blog

Evolving Student Residences

Ken sums up trends in on-campus housing, as colleges and universities build more and more residences, to appeal to international students, teenagers and their parents. Western University has 5,346 residence rooms, and most built in the past decade feature a semi-private floorplan with private bedroom and study space, shared washrooms, kitchen and living area. Colleges have increasingly been following suit, such as Fanshawe College, whose Merlin House accommodates 428 students in a similar fashion. Amenities arms races in Canada are nothing compared to those at American colleges (consider for example the $7 million leisure pool at Texas Tech University), but nonetheless the bar keeps rising for luxury campus housing. For example, Brescia University College opened a new $30-million residence in 2013 with private rooms, queen-sized beds, individual thermostats, and even room service. The University of Winnipeg opened a residence, McFeetors Hall, that combines 172 student dorms with 25 ground-floor townhomes, half reserved for community housing.

In many provinces, capital debt is discouraged for residence construction, so increasingly institutions are turning to P3s (public-private partnerships) to design, build, and sometimes manage student residences (such as Thompson Rivers University, Ryerson University, and SAIT Polytechnic). If institutions don’t build enough residence space, private developers will often swoop in to build apartment towers adjacent to campus. In some cases, student residences are an integral part of the academic mission of the institution, such as the Velocity Residence at the University of Waterloo, a “dormcubator” designed to incubate new student-run businesses (and already a success, considering graduates like Ted Livingston, founder of Kik Interactive, who donated $1 million to establish a seed money fund for future student ventures).

In a previous episode, we argued that there has been a rise in part-time and commuter students on campus, even when they are “invisible”. Some institutions are dedicating dorm space to commuter students, such as Mansfield University in Pennsylvania. UBC Okanagan has created “Collegia” to provide space to study, cook, socialize, or nap for commuter students on campus. Ryerson University has opened a new commuter hostel, with 9 rooms available to students for $35 per night, on a limited basis.

Some residences are considerably less luxurious. In Terrace BC, Northwest Community College opened a 49-bed campus residence using the same ATCO trailers used in remote work camps – not only a cost-effective solution, but an experiential learning opportunity for trades students. Although the campus housing market seems to be bifurcating, students often demonstrate a resentment of inequality — most recently, Ryerson University students gained international media attention over the #TissueIssue (fancier 2-ply tissue in the administration washrooms on campus). Space in residence may become even tighter yet, judging by the example of modular dorms in Hong Kong, based on the capsule hotels of Japan. Students pay HK$3,500 per month for a 6x4x3′ slot, barely larger than a morgue drawer. Most places in Canada will never see such cramped quarters, but if they do appear, it will likely be in downtown Vancouver, where international students may arrive with less and less expectation of personal space.

Finally, just #ICYMI, we share clips from a catchy new music video from the University of Victoria, “Discover Your Edge.”

(Oh, and a couple of bloopers follow the closing credits, for those of you who stick it out!)

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