Published by The Chronicle of Higher Education
Virginia Tech’s incoming class is hardly the first to check into a hotel lobby instead of a traditional dorm, and if history is any indicator, it probably won’t be the last.
Nanci Tessier, senior vice president at the Art & Science Group, a higher-education consulting firm, said that colleges turn to hotels for overflow housing because they’re often the only short-term option available in the three-month window between when students put down their deposits and move-in day.
“If you had a point where you were overenrolled on May 1, and you’ve got to be able to accommodate those students in August, there are very few places to turn to except hotels,” she said.
The arrangement also gives universities some financial flexibility. “You may not be making money on it from a housing-revenue point of view,” she said, “but rarely are you losing large amounts of money, and you’re not making the long-term commitment.”
But David Strauss, also of the Art & Science Group, said the reality isn’t that simple. Strauss, who is not related to Daniel Strauss, said that enrollment rates are growing more unpredictable, and that once-sound methods of projecting enrollment from acceptances don’t work as well as they used to.
“The marketplace of prospective students for colleges and universities is increasingly volatile, and it has reached the point of being extremely volatile,” he said. “Oftentimes, even with very sophisticated modeling, it’s hard to know who’s going to show up.”