Graduate and Professional Student Housing
A Graduate and Professional Student Housing Working Group was appointed in the summer of 2016 as an initial step to develop housing options for graduate and professional students that extend learning and collaboration beyond the classroom and laboratory. With the assistance of the external consultant, Demographic Perspectives, LLC, the group visited peer university and college campuses in urban settings, held multiple working sessions, led student focus group meetings, and conducted a comprehensive survey of graduate and professional students. The working group and external consultants held over 40 stakeholder interviews and focus groups that included students, faculty and staff. In addition, 2,345 (approx. 50%) of all graduate and professional students completed a housing survey issued by the group.
Summary of Findings
A number of key questions and factors were studied as a part of this effort:
Throughout this study, Vanderbilt gathered information on several key points, including:
- Stakeholder and student vision for housing: Vanderbilt stakeholders, including graduate and professional students, agree that housing should be available to a wide variety of students in order to foster cross-discipline collaboration and allow for connections across programs. All stakeholders acknowledged that nearby, affordable housing is becoming very difficult to find.
- Types of housing and amenities peer institutions offer through a benchmark analysis and campus visits: Institutions in similar, urban settings offer a variety of housing types from traditional apartments to dorm style housing, to cover a variety of student needs and preferences. All acknowledge that providing housing helps with recruitment, particularly in high cost or competitive housing markets. They also acknowledge that housing builds a better community for students and creates a stronger connection to their schools. Institutions visited included Brooklyn Law, NYU, Cornell Weill Medical, Columbia Law, Harvard Business School, Harvard University, MIT. Peer institutions benchmarked included Boston University, Babson, Brown, California Institute of Technology, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT, Northwestern, Princeton, Stanford, Tufts, University of Iowa, University of California Berkeley, University of California Irvine, University of Chicago, Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, Washington University in St. Louis, and Yale.
- Current conditions of housing for graduate and professional students: Students are currently spread throughout Nashville and many factors are at play including affordability, preferred unit/building types, amenities and services in the area, safety, and proximity to Vanderbilt. About 30% of graduate and professional students live 1.5 miles or less to campus. Out of survey participants, their proximity from campus was as follows:
- Amenity, location and unit preferences: When surveyed, students expressed a preference to be walking distance to campus. Preferred amenities included healthy/green buildings, fitness rooms, and common work/play spaces. Students were also interested in wellness programming and social activities. A sampling of survey responses are reflected below:
With the knowledge from efforts outlined above, Vanderbilt has engaged a third-party firm to assist with identifying the best implementation strategy for building graduate and professional student housing. This firm will assist Vanderbilt with evaluating options for development that align with the university's goals and vision. Expected outcomes of these efforts include:
- A project vision regarding specifics for what Vanderbilt wants to build (location, number of units, unit types, etc.)
- Development alternatives and the pro's and con's of each scenario
- Financial analysis, expected costs, target rental rates and feasibility of each development option
This engagement includes a 12 to 18 month process, at the end of which, the university will start detailed design, planning and construction of a graduate and professional student village. In the coming month, we will share an outline of the timeline for this process. Additional engagement with stakeholders, including graduate and professional students, will be key to this process.