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The dark side to the rise of luxury student accommodation

What happens to university students who can’t afford to splash out on luxury student accommodation near campus? Source: Madalyn Cox/Unsplash

Luxury student accommodation is on the rise, but as swanky student pads replace more modest student digs, less affluent students risk becoming the biggest losers – financially and academically. 

In countries such as the US, Australia and the UK, some luxury student accommodation boast gyms, games rooms and even cinemas. 

For instance, Vita Student York in the UK offers students free contents insurance, free-to-use bikes, in-room smart TVs and a housekeeping service. Students who opt to live in Zenith Apartments in Wales gain entry to a private dining room, gym and a state-of-the-art cinema. 

Those in Perth, Australia have the option of living in The Boulevard on Stirling, which has a heated pool and an exclusive rooftop event space with a cinema for those looking to upgrade their movie nights. 

Down the rabbit hole


In the US, developers have been eyeing areas for public universities as a growth market, bulldozing ageing buildings to develop luxury apartments that might appeal to upper-middle-class parents looking for a safe and comfortable place for their children to live in, reported Bloomberg.

Naturally, those who can afford luxury student accommodation will benefit from better amenities and proximity to campus. Conversely, a shortage of affordable options within proximity of campus will drive less affluent students further into the outskirts in search of cheaper housing.

Apart from the longer commute, lower-income students will likely spend more on transportation, in addition to working longer hours in part-time jobs to finance their expenses, resulting in less time for their studies and a social life when compared to their wealthier peers.

Bloomberg reported that this divides student populations based on family wealth, with students “on the wrong side” feeling the difference. This could include feeling cut off from their university experience when scheduling their campus activities based on how it affects their commute times.

In an ideal world, most – if not all – students would ideally opt for swankier pads located close to campus in lieu of average ones that may be less aesthetically pleasing and bereft of top-of-the-range facilities. 

But the rise in luxury student accommodation, especially those built closest to campus, appears to be a system that favours the affluent.

Student accommodation can affect educational outcomes

The rise in luxury student accommodation appears to be a system that favours the affluent. Source: Shutterstock

A HUD report cites research that notes that as students progress to post-secondary education, housing conditions continue to impact their educational success.

In the report, Barriers to Success: Housing Insecurity for US College Students, low college completion rates and on-time graduation rates are reportedly lacklustre in the US. 

“As of 2012, only 59 percent of first-time, full-time students at a four-year institution graduated within six years,” it said. Meanwhile, a meagre five percent of students complete a two-year associate degree on time, while most public four-year colleges graduate less than one-half of their full-time students within four years.

“Low-income and first-generation students continue to graduate at far lower rates than higher income  students. In general, the US lags behind other industrialised nations in college completion. Students’ housing challenges likely contribute to this gap.”

As rent prices increase and students struggle to find affordable housing near campus, there’s no denying the short and long-term implications for students struggling to get their basic needs met. 

Luxury student accommodation might be fun to look at, but ensuring the needs of all students are met without prioritising one group over the other should take precedence. Failure to do which, the gap between the rich and less affluent students will widen even before they’ve graduated from university.

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