Designing for Tomorrow: First-Year Housing Trends from SEAHO

  • Jun 21, 2024

In February, The Beck Group participated in the Southeastern Association of Housing Officers (SEAHO) 2024 Conference in North Charleston, SC. Engaging directly with housing professionals, we conducted an on-site survey. It’s purpose was to gather insights on critical areas impacting first-year student housing:

  • The evolving expectations of first-year students
  • The impact of delivery culture
  • And preferences for common spaces in residence halls

This article distills these insights, offering higher education decision-makers a comprehensive understanding of current trends and challenges in student housing.

Evolving Expectations of First-Year Students

The landscape of first-year student housing is undergoing a significant transformation driven by the changing expectations of incoming students. Today’s students arrive on campus with diverse needs and preferences shaped by their unique backgrounds and experiences.

This shift has prompted architects and campus planners to rethink residence hall designs to create inclusive, dynamic living environments that cater to these multifaceted needs.

Key insights from the survey reveal a strong demand for privacy, with over half of the respondents emphasizing the importance of single occupancy rooms. Specifically, 68 percent of those highlighting privacy mentioned single rooms as the most desired living arrangement, and 38 percent preferred private bathrooms. This trend towards privacy and individualized living spaces reflects a broader desire for comfort, convenience, and a conducive learning environment.

First-Year Housing Trends from SEAHO

 

While single rooms offer numerous benefits, such as increased privacy, better academic focus, and reduced risk of spreading disease, they also present challenges. Significant concerns include social isolation, limited personal growth opportunities, and higher costs. Addressing these trade-offs requires a balanced approach. For example, integrating features like privatized community restrooms offers some privacy while maintaining opportunities for social interaction.

Impact of Delivery Culture

The rise of delivery culture, fueled by smartphone apps and online platforms, has significantly impacted campus housing facilities. Students increasingly opt for the convenience of having food and other items delivered directly to their dorms, driven by academic pressures and busy social lives. This trend, however, has introduced new challenges for housing teams and front desk staff.

Survey respondents highlighted increased workload, clutter, and security concerns associated with managing food and package deliveries. Notably, 52 percent of the responses were negative, indicating a need for innovative solutions to address these challenges. Some campuses have implemented strategies like routing all deliveries to a specific location, using Amazon lockers, and employing autonomous delivery robots to streamline the process.

Innovative approaches, such as requiring students to collect deliveries personally or utilizing autonomous robots, can help mitigate these issues. These solutions enhance efficiency, reduce the burden on housing staff, and improve campus security.

Preferences for Common Spaces

 

The survey explored students’ preferences for common spaces within residence halls. It uncovered a demand for a diverse mix of environments that cater to different needs and learning styles.

Contrary to our initial assumption that students would prefer smaller, more private spaces, there is a significant call for more common spaces overall.

Respondents emphasized the importance of adaptable environments supporting social interaction and individual study. This includes larger community spaces for social activities and smaller, private rooms for focused learning. The feedback suggests that while privacy is valued, communal spaces remain essential for fostering community and belonging.

Conclusion

The insights gathered from the SEAHO 2024 Conference highlight the evolving expectations of first-year students and the corresponding need for innovative housing solutions. Universities must balance providing privacy, facilitating social interaction, addressing the challenges of delivery culture, and creating versatile common spaces.

As we adapt to the changing landscape of higher education, collaboration and innovation will be key to creating vibrant, supportive living environments for all students.

To learn more about these first-year housing trends, download the report. You can also contact Beck for hands-on guidance and support.

 

 

Ken Higa is a Principal and Higher Education Practice Leader at The Beck Group in Atlanta.