Student Housing: Less Space for Marrieds, More Luxury for Singles

Sheree R. Curry



Joanna and Zach Cammenga married in May 2012 right after graduating with bachelors degrees from the University of Michigan, where they met. Today, as a married couple, they attend graduate school at Ohio State University and live in the university's housing complex for married couples or students who have children.

Married student housing is on the decline, reports the Columbus Dispatch, which interviewed the Cammengas. Although Ohio State still has housing for married couples, Bowling Green State University no longer offers married student housing, and Kent State is leveling its only family housing apartments, the newspaper reports. "In recent years, we have not seen a demand for that housing," said Dave Kielmeyer, a spokesman for Bowling Green.

Demand is down in part because the U.S. marriage rate is at an all-time low -- only 51% of adults were married in 2011, according to U.S. Census Bureau statistics. In 1960, 72 percent of all adults ages 18 and older were married, according to data from the Pew Research Center. And for those Americans who are walking down the aisle, they are doing so at a much later age than they did 20 and 50 years ago. The median age at first marriage is 26.5 years for brides and 28.7 grooms.

"People are marrying later and thus there could be less need for married student housing," Sam Richardson, assistant director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia confirmed to AOL Real Estate. So rather than invest in married student housing, it seems that universities are investing in more upscale residence halls and apartment complexes for traditional students with a growing appetite for luxury.

A study published by the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers found that "poorly maintained or inadequate residential facilities" was the No. 1 reason that students rejected enrolling at institutions, reported the Fiscal Times. At Penn State, fully furnished single rooms with private baths come equipped with Cable TV and Internet access. Mail is even delivered to their door, according to a list of the Top "10 Public Colleges with Insanely Luxurious Dorms." Georgia State offers two- and four-bedroom suites with living rooms and fully equipped kitchens.

Ashley Gilles is sharing student housing at the University of Minnesota that's very different than what her grandparents generation would have seen. She and her roommates have a new kitchen with granite countertops and a washer and dryer in the unit. "It feels more like home," Gilles, a senior, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The Domain at Columbia is the newest and most luxurious student housing community serving University of Missouri students. It comes with a 24-hour fitness facility, a swimming pool, a game room, a theater, a full-swing golf simulator, outdoor grilling area, and even a free tanning salon. The Ivy House at the University of Florida in Gainesville (pictured above) has in-unit gourmet kitchens with two ovens and a spa tub in the private bath. "It feels more like a sorority house," claimed one student.

Many such housing apartments seem to be the growing trend across the U.S. to house both genders, but there has also been a move toward "gender-inclusive" rooms, allowing both genders to reside in the same unit. Although originally formed to meet the needs of LGBT students who might get bullied in a same-gender room, non-gender specific housing also would fit the needs of married couples willing to take on roommates in suites.

University of north Carolina-Chapel Hill is poised to become the first public university in that state to institute a gender-inclusive housing program this fall, following in the footsteps of approximately 100 schools nationwide, including nearly half of Chapel Hill's peer institutions.