To explore the future of University Housing, three different focus groups of undergraduate students met Monday with the Scion Group, a real estate services company, to discuss what lies ahead.
The Scion Group, based in Chicago, consults with institutions of higher education and private-sector companies that provide housing for students on their development projects. Scion announced its partnership with the University on Feb. 3 of this year. The company has held several focus groups with students from February to March, University Housing spokesman Peter Logan said.
In the meetings with students, faculty and administration, the Scion Group gathered information and performed market research on housing in Ann Arbor to help form a vision for the years ahead for both graduate and undergraduate student housing options.
“As essentially an objective third party coming in and taking a look at the residential facilities, the residential experience that we offer for both undergraduate and graduate students has been very helpful,” Logan said.
The three focus groups on Monday of this week had three different residential themes. One included students who live on campus, another students living off campus and the third was with student staff who live and work in residence halls. On Tuesday, another meeting was held with seven undergraduate students living in North Campus residences.
Students shared what they like about living on and off campus and what the advantages and challenges are in each case, including what would they like to change. They also asked students about the difficulties of finding housing.
Logan said as the Residential Life Initiative comes to an end with the renovation of West Quad Residence Hall, which will begin in May, the University thought it was an important time to talk with students and gauge their opinions on what could be done next.
“We are trying to anticipate what more should we be doing in terms of student housing experience at U of M after 2015 when West Quad reopens” Logan said.
University President Mary Sue Coleman launched he Residential Life in 2004 for the improvement and development of University Housing facilities including 18 residence halls, the nine residential dining halls and the five North Campus apartment complexes.
These developments included upgrading and renovating existing residences like East Quad Residence Hall in 2013, South Quad in 2014 and West Quad in 2015, as well as the construction of North Quad Residence Hall in 2010. Logan said the University has committed $650 million to the RLI.
“University Housing over the past several years has been involved in a remarkable campaign to improve our facilities (and) improve the residential experience” Logan said.
Logan said the attendance in the focus groups varies with as little as one person showing, to a dozen or more students attended others. Regardless, Logan said he has seen constructive feedback.
“It’s just been helpful getting the undergraduate perspective of what is a good, what is a supportive living experience for them” Logan said.
Logan said there may be more sessions in June, depending on the student population on campus, and that Scion will complete their research in July. Scion will conclude their study by sending an online survey to undergraduate students about their student housing experience, Logan added.