Future of the Profession

A forward-looking initiative to design a stronger, healthier, and more sustainable campus housing profession.



Key Influences on Future Facility Design

As campuses update and replace their housing stock, there are a number of stakeholders that will contribute to the process and factors that will be weighed. Housing and residence life staff can provide valuable insight. It is important that representatives from housing and residence life are informed and prepared to be part of those conversations.

Many key influences will affect the industry-wide future of housing facilities on college and university campuses. These areas are vast and complex, but all must be considered in order to design and run the most effective housing programs possible. Just as ACUHO-I’s 21st Century Project provided a new lens through which we viewed our buildings and our profession, the work in this part of Future of the Profession will shed light on what we anticipate is to come.

Specifically, there are three areas of key influences with many contributing factors. These influences are long-term master planning, student success, and affordability and housing insecurity.

Long-Term Master Planning

The most effective housing operations will not only know what is expected in the next year or three years, but the following ten to fifteen. Master planning for the future is critical to keeping a housing operation updated, relevant, and connected to the college or universities long term enrollment plans and strategy. This master planning must be done with equity in mind and should consider the following areas.

  • Lifecycle Planning Including Renewal and Deferred Maintenance: Setting up for success in the future for facilities must consider the long term lifecycle of buildings, renewing them significantly and addressing continued deferred maintenance to provide the best environments possible for students to reside and be successful. Having planning documents for what the 10+ year plan is for each facility to ensure all building systems are being considered and whether replacement, renewal or continued maintenance are needed is important.
  • Flexibility: Needs and priorities are constantly changing. Planning for a future that allows a housing operation to be nimble with what is yet to come is important. Designing space that can meet many student needs/types without significant modification/renovation is one way this can be addressed.
  • Belonging and Sense of Place: If students don’t belong and feel connected they are less likely to stay and be academically successful. Designing spaces with this in mind is critical for future planning. Spaces should be designed for community development and the ability to be alone when in communities with multiple occupants per room.
  • Sustainability: College and universities can play an important role in this area for their community both local and global. Designing a long term strategy that keeps this at the forefront to do the most good is important. Considering solar, reducing utility usage, and enhancing recycling and compost are all areas to be looked at.
  • Technology: Much has changed in the last three years with technology on college and university campuses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping in mind this drastic level of change that took place and what could come must be factored in. Ensuring ethernet and wi-fi capabilities are updated for the future will be critical.
  • Universal Design: Meeting as many needs of students in facility design is always important and staying up to date in all the ways this can look is a key influence. Spaces that can serve many types of students and their needs when looking at door openers, accessible floor plans in rooms that can easily be adapted for a student that uses a wheelchair, rooms that have alarm systems that support deaf and blind students as well as those that don’t have that need are all possible.

Student Success

Student success is paramount to the long-term success and future of college and university housing. Students are the reason for our work and existence and as such, their success must be an influence that is considered and factored in as we look to the future. This area must consider the following areas when looking at metrics for their success.

  • Equity, Inclusion, Access: Students from marginalized populations are increasing on college campuses, but their retention and graduation rates are not keeping pace with their growth. Planning facilities to support more academic success in this area is critical. Considering single rooms, lots of room types to address different needs and price points, and communities to support students of marginalized identities should be considered.
  • Well-Being: Many elements make up a student’s overall well-being. Paying attention to all of these factors that provide facility environments that are optimized for positive mental health for our students is key. Areas to consider are single-room options, isolation spaces for illness, emergency response spaces, etc.
  • Involvement: The more involved students are, the more academically successful and connected to the institution they will be. Designing spaces to support this as we look to the future is important. Areas to consider are lounge spaces both floor and building-wide, kitchens, and other spaces to gather.
  • Learning and Connection to the Academic Mission: Housing programs must get more connected to their respective campus mission and vision in order to further that respective academic mission and become more embedded in the student academic experience. This can take many forms including but not limited to living-learning communities, makerspaces, office spaces for academic faculty, etc.

Affordability and Housing Insecurity

The affordability of the higher education experience is a growing area of concern within the industry and housing is by no means immune to this. Students that are wanting to fund their experience and have the most academic success possible benefit greatly from the campus housing experience as long as it can be afforded. Addressing the rising costs of housing is an important influence as we look to the future and specifically, involving the following areas.

  • Financial Aid. Packages for financial aid has changed over the years and will continue to change in the future with likely fewer grants and more loans. This not only limits what students can afford when at college but can impact how long they will have debt to pay back. Working with financial aid to have the most accurate room and board amount used for the campus financial aid awarding is an important detail to track.
  • Single Point of Contact: Having a single person that students can connect with to support their success as they manage affordability concerns is an important piece to have in place. This staff member can be in many different work groups and could be a Resident Director, Area Director or other type of accessible full-time staff member for students.
  • Campus Alignment with Student Advocacy: Keeping abreast with advocates on campus is important to help students get connected with this important resource. Emergency grants, short term or emergency housing, etc. are all areas in which housing departments could partner in this area.
  • Resiliency: Students who have higher resiliency can weather the storms of housing insecurity or affordability more successfully. Finding ways to increase this resiliency for students is an important area to consider. Increasing belonging and relationships that students create is an important way to address this.

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