Student Housing is everyone’s business. Or at least it should be.

I’ve heard folks talk about how “sticky” your website is, how grocery stores are laid out to make customers walk through the whole place just to buy a gallon of milk, how Wal Mart shelves product in a manner that somehow draws you deeper into the store.  In all honesty the mental part of this is a bit  frightening and makes me think of a spider web, but the business theory is pretty sound – get folks in the door and the longer they stay, the more they spend. So what on earth does this have to do with student housing.  Well, I’d say lots.  Schools are very much a bastion of higher learning but at the core they’re still fundamentally businesses.  You offer a product that people pay for.  From the money you make you pay expenses incurred in delivering the product.  You invest in assets to make the product better and available to more people who bring in more money and the cycle continues.  So students are the customers and the more they’re in your “store” the more money they’ll spend and the better you can operate your business. Wouldn’t Wal Mart like to have several thousand people living in a store?  I mean come on, talk about a captive audience that would look to them to fulfill every need.  That’s basically what you’ve got in a housing system – several thousand consumers looking to the campus to fulfill their needs.  And what do they need?  Food, entertainment, exercise, parking, more food and if time permits, a bit of education.  So beyond anteing up for the education by paying tuition, if they live with you they’re now “investing in the institution” through paying for housing, dining, parking, rec center, etc.  And assuming they have a grand time during their educational career, they may show back up as “other income” through being supporting alumni. Compare that to the student that lives off campus.  Sure they’re paying tuition, various fees and maybe commuter parking rates (or they ride a shuttle) but that’s it.  Lots less revenue overall for the product provided.  Put that in financial terms and your gross profit margin is smaller in comparison while the cost of goods sold remained the same. Why is this everyone’s business and who is “everyone”?  By this I mean everyone working on the campus.  My theory starts with a healthy housing system, but the higher the student satisfaction with ALL campus services (and I know they can be a pain to satisfy) the happier they are living on campus and the longer they stay in your “store”.  And as long as this holds true, the more campus operations benefit financially, contributing to the greater welfare of the whole school. In thinking about housing it’s really a holistic view on a school’s operations overall.  Everything that happens on the campus fosters customer satisfaction which contributes to the health of the school.  Or am I totally off in the head as my eight year old would say?