From the first student cottages of the 1870s to today’s modern dormitories, student housing remains essential to college students everywhere. These accommodations provide convenience, especially for students from distant places. Additionally, dormitories and student housing serve as a venue for students to socialize and mingle with their peers.
Student housing also forms a sizable portion of the real estate market and investments around the world. Global investment into purpose-built student accommodations exceeded $16 billion in 2018, with the US taking the lion’s share of the investments.
In this article, we’ll take a more in-depth look into the statistics of college students living on campuses, as well as other important student housing statistics. We’ve also put together the numbers behind the student housing market today.
General Student Housing Statistics
Student housing has come a long way since the first purpose-built student cottages at the University of California. Today, these accommodations serve as a home for a more diverse selection of students. Student housing trends also point to the fact that students today have more choices aside from residence halls and dormitories, like purpose-built student accommodation and off-campus housing.
- Only 22% of university students in the US live in on-campus dormitories. Fifty-five percent of US university students live in other types of rental housing, while the remaining 23% live in purpose-built, off-campus housing. 
- The vacancy rate for student housing units in the US is 2.3%. 
- Numbering 8.6 million, student beds account for 12% of the total number of US rental units. 
- The majority of student housing beds—61%—is in the South, with 19% in the Midwest, 13% in the West, and the remaining 6% in the Northeast. 
- Occupancy levels for on- and off-campus housing remain consistently high, with 2018 occupancy levels at 95%. 
- International students are a key demographic for the student housing market, with 1,095,299 international students enrolled in US colleges and universities in 2019. 
- Moreover, according to international student housing statistics, New York University hosts 19,605 international students in 2019, the highest in the country. 
Market Size and Industry Leaders
The student housing market remains strong, particularly in the US. Investment volumes in the country have been on the high side since 2010. Additionally, annual investments in student housing in the US have reached nearly $11 billion, triple the investment volume in 2014. Factors such as consistently high levels of enrollment and controlled levels of supply contribute to a healthy market.
- For the 70 largest four-year universities, 55% of the rental student housing market is less than 10 units in size. 
- At 80%, the majority of rental stock for student housing offers less than 50 units. 
- The University of Illinois is the top location in the US in terms of developing private purpose-built student accommodations, with plans to deliver 2,620 beds in 2020. 
- Majority of the student housing market, 78% to be exact, was built in the last 20 years. 
- Fewer than 20 companies own 25 or more properties in the student housing market. 
- The top owner of student housing in the US is American Campus Communities, with 169 properties and 104,078 beds. 
Student Housing Supply
The US student housing market added roughly the same number of beds in 2019 as it did in 2018. The development of on- and off-campus accommodations for students continues at a steady rate. However, student housing statistics in terms of supply provides some interesting insights. Colleges and universities in the southern US, for instance, tend to offer the highest number of off-campus beds. On the other hand, students can count on universities in the northeastern US to have a higher availability of on-campus beds.
- Universities and colleges in the US expect to add roughly 47,000 beds for their students. 
- The country’s 175 largest universities can provide on-campus accommodations for only 21.5% of undergraduates. 
- The off-campus bed-to-total enrollment ratio is, on average, 16.9%. 
- Florida State University has the most off-campus beds for students, with a 69.1% ratio of off-campus beds to total enrollment. 
- Aside from universities that offer no off-campus beds for students, the University of California-Los Angeles offers the least number of off-campus beds per student: only 182 off-campus beds for 33,317 students. 9
- Meanwhile, Eastern Illinois University offers the most on-campus beds per student, with an on-campus bed-to-total enrollment ratio of 76.6%. 
- Aside from universities offering no on-campus beds, California State University Fresno offers the fewest on-campus beds, with only 1,100 on-campus beds available for 25,168 students. 
- The University of California-San Diego sits at the top of the list of campuses with the highest expected supply of on-campus beds, anticipating the delivery of 2,221 new beds in 2020. 
Demand for Student Housing
Leasing velocity and high occupancy rates indicate a high demand for student housing in the US today. Factors such as enrollment rates and recent new supply directly affect occupancy rates at universities and colleges all over the country. Rent growth also contributes to these occupancy rates. Similarly, Generation Z and its perception of college education may have an impact on college enrollment in the future.
- Pre-lease data indicates that student housing occupancy for fall 2019 is at 93.2%. 
- Around 8.6 million students need rental housing near campus. 
- Universities with 100% occupancy have seen high enrollment growth. For instance, Boise State University reports a 100% occupancy rate and an enrollment growth of 5.7% in 2018. 
- The University of Alabama reports the lowest pre-leasing in August, at 80.3%. 
Student Preferences in Accommodations
College students often have a variety of preferences when it comes to their living space at universities and the amenities these accommodations offer. These preferences often include privacy features, proximity to the campus, and technology such as WiFi. The demand for high-quality student housing also makes a compelling case for the use of the best real estate management software.
- More than 78% of students confirmed that the availability of high-quality student housing affected their choice of college or university. 
- The top 3 accommodation amenities students ranked most important in 2018 are WiFi (78%), laundry (77%), and utilities (71%). 
Source: Student Housing Business 2018
Rent and Housing Costs
Student housing in the US can cost a pretty penny, especially with luxury apartments spreading in the vicinity of college campuses. A variety of factors affect rent and housing costs for college students, including a property’s proximity to the campus and the amenities provided by the property. Additionally, room and board tend to be more expensive at privately owned institutions.
When you look at the reasons not to go to college statistics, living expenses easily find their way into the list. The increasing costs of student housing make for an even heavier burden for college students facing higher tuition fees.
- The average student housing rent per year for on-campus residence halls costs $7,717 per bed. 
- On-campus apartments charge an average rent of $7,056 annually, while off-campus purpose-built student accommodations cost $10,965 in rent per year. 
- Off-campus student-competitive accommodations are associated with the highest annual rent costs, at $13,093. 
- Rent for student housing for fall 2019 grew 1.8%, compared to 2018’s rent growth rate of 1.6%. 
- Student accommodations located less than half a mile from campus saw rent growth of 2.1% in 2019, compared to a 1.0% growth for properties more than a mile from campus. 
- Students paid 9% more annually to live in student-competitive apartments compared to purpose-built apartments. 
- On average, college students paid 26% less in rent for an on-campus apartment compared to an off-campus purpose-built housing unit. 
- For purpose-built student accommodations, every additional mile away from campus brought a 17% discount. 
- Private-school accommodations tend to offer a higher average per-bed annual rent at $8,148 compared to the $7,553 annual per-bed rent of public-school accommodations. 
Role of Location in Housing Costs
- Berkeley, California, has the highest off-campus monthly housing costs at $2,263 per month, while Tallahassee, Florida, has the lowest off-campus monthly housing costs at $593. 
- Students in Berkeley, California, also pay the highest on-campus monthly housing costs at $1,861. On the other hand, students in Provo, Utah, pay the lowest on-campus monthly housing costs of $417. 
- Bowling Green State University in Ohio posted the highest rent growth in 2019, with rent going up by 7.5%. 
- Student beds in large city urban areas have a 56% premium for student-competitive units, a 52% premium for on-campus options, and a 32% for purpose-built student accommodation options. 
The Future of Student Housing
The student housing market enjoys a unique quality: the market tends to maintain a steady demand through recession periods. Additionally, enrollment rates usually rise as the job market weakens. These qualities ensure stable growth for the student housing market.
The outlook looks especially rosy for the student housing market in the US, where demand is expected to stay high through the near future. Factors like a growing population of international students, tighter competition among property developers, and consistent yields for student housing all contribute to steady growth for the US student housing market.
All of these numbers bode well for higher education in general, albeit with the attendant issues of their own.
- ^GLOBAL STUDENT PROPERTY 2019
- ^Fall 2018 School Year Starts Strong for the Student Housing Sector
- ^Vacancy rate of student housing units in the U.S. 2016-2019
- ^THE U.S. STUDENT HOUSING MARKET
- ^United States Student Housing 2019
- ^Number of International Students in the United States Hits All-Time High
- ^U.S. universities with the most international students 2018/19
- ^Comparing the Costs of On-Campus and Off-Campus Student Housing
- ^Southern Schools Tend to See Highest Off-Campus Housing Ratios
- ^Purdue University Leads for Scheduled Supply in 2019
- ^More Beds Per Student on Campuses With Living Requirements
- ^On-Campus Deliveries to Spike in 2020
- ^New International Student Enrollment In U.S. Has Fallen 10% Since 2015
- ^Student Housing Performance Varies Widely by School
- ^Nine Trends Changing the Student Housing Industry
- ^Student Housing Business
- ^If the Tuition Doesn’t Get You, the Cost of Student Housing Will
- ^Top-Performing Student Housing Trending Closer to Campus
- ^Campus Report: Is Off-Campus Housing Cheaper?
- ^The Schools with the Largest Rent Growth in 2019