George Mason University

Fairfax,

Student Housing Demand Advisory Services

CLIENT CHALLENGE
George Mason University is the largest public research university in the Commonwealth of Virginia and has expanded from its original one-building campus in 1957 to include its present-day four-campus presence in Virginia, one campus in Korea, and a housing system that can support 6,300 students. In the spring of 2017, the university asked Brailsford & Dunlavey to provide advisory services to examine how market dynamics influenced on-campus student housing and how the university could best position its portfolio to maximize occupancy, enhance the student residential experience, and advance the Mason Idea of innovation, diversity, entrepreneurship, and accessibility.

PROJECT HIGHLIGHTS
The first step in B&D’s planning process was to facilitate a Strategic Asset Value work session with the university’s executive committee to ensure diverse stakeholder involvement in the planning process, ground it in the university’s ideals, and align it with Mason’s mission and strategic priorities. This was followed by a series of analyses, including:

• Focus groups and stakeholder interviews
• Analyses of the on-campus housing supply and the off-campus market
• Peer benchmarking and financial studies
• An online student survey and demand analysis

B&D SOLUTION
After synthesizing the results of the above analyses, B&D concluded that each campus required housing solutions tailored to the students primarily served on that campus. In addition, B&D advised that the university continue to make intentional and programmatic changes throughout the campuses to cultivate a more dynamic residential experience to complement and advance the university’s mission and values. Specific recommendations included the decommissioning of poorly functioning residence halls, adjusting overall unit mixes to better align with student demand, and repositioning semi-suite, double-occupancy units to be more marketable. A detailed execution / phasing strategy was developed to ensure the university would continue to operate as a residential campus throughout the housing changes and that any lost revenue associated with beds going offline would have a minimal impact on the system’s overall health. B&D also presented the university with alternative delivery structures to consider, including a potential public-private partnership.