Construction of new residence hall facilities continues to be a focus of colleges and universities, and adding on-campus housing will remain a priority as a swell of incoming students flood higher-education institutions over the next decade.

College and university enrollment is projected to grow rapidly through 2013, rising more than 10 percent from today's number. This increase in students will force many institutions to scramble for space to not only house the influx of students, but also create additional environments to educate them. Add to this a desire by students and parents to remain on campus, and institutions are finding they are facing a “perfect storm” in residence hall construction.

Many institutions are responding by building larger housing facilities, according to American School & University's 15th annual survey of residence hall construction. The median facility completed in 2003 was 15 percent larger than in 2002 (57,000 square feet compared with 49,707 square feet) and 43 percent larger than the median project completed in 2001 (40,000 square feet).

Behind the numbers

To arrive at results for the 15th annual Residence Hall Construction Report, of which data are compiled as part of American School & University's larger Official Education Construction Report (published in May), chief business officials at the nation's colleges and universities involved in a new residence hall construction project were asked to provide information about a variety of cost and amenity issues.

Table 1 includes construction and cost data for new residence hall projects, breaking out information from lowest to highest, and by averages and medians. When comparing data, the editors recommend that median figures be used, as medians are determined to provide more accurate cost and size variables than averages.

Total cost for new residence halls put in place in 2003 ranged from a low of $1 million to a high of $37.9 million. The median project cost $5.7 million (down from $6.8 million the year before); the average project cost $10.4 million. Project size varied from 16,400 square feet to 200,000 square feet. The median residence hall has 57,000 square feet of space, while the average project totals 75,480 square feet.

The median new housing project accommodates 198 residents, while the average houses 285. The number of beds ranged from a low of 28 at the smallest project to a high of 900 for the largest. Cost per resident totaled $37,500 at the median new residence hall and $39,641 at the average new housing facility.

The amount of square feet per resident at the median new residence hall dropped a bit to 317 from 339 the year before, and ranged from a low of 124 to a high of 1,111.

Cost per square foot for median new residence halls completed in 2003 came off the 2002 all-time high ($140 compared with $150), but remained at the more expensive end of historical costs. Cost per square foot ranged from a low of $25 to a high of $190.