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Will Student Housing Go The Way Of Residential Colleges?

In 2014, Southern Methodist University adopted a centuries-old student living format called residential colleges. SMU dean of residence life and student housing Dr. Troy Behrens thinks colleges all over will continue to adopt this model. Hear more from Troy and other student housing insiders at our Austin University Development and Student Housing event on Oct. 27.


The ownership and functionality of residential colleges vary by university, but these student housing complexes generally have student and faculty residents, academic spaces, libraries, classrooms, dining services, events and a clear connection to the larger university. Plus a residential college usually has its own crest, Latin mantra and lots of student pride

RCs (like what you see at Oxford) have proven links to higher student GPAs, retention rates, engagement and better connection to faculty.

Troy has been in higher education for nearly two decades and says he's seen an evolution away from commuter campuses and colleges with fancy apartment complexes that were far removed (in more ways than one) from the university.

But there's a small caveat. Nearly every university that has adopted RCs is a private college—and can mandate students live on campus for one to four years. Public schools will likely stick with the current model of living and learning communities (more like dorms) that have some of the benefits of a residential college but a lower price tag, Troy tells us.


At SMU, the decision to pursue residential colleges started as a sophomore initiative. RCs would help sophomores endure the dreaded slump and boost their grades, retain more second-year students and help them feel more connected to the university.

After spending $200M to renovate six buildings and build five new housing facilities and a dining hall, SMU opened 11 residential colleges (called residential commons). SMU requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus.

Troy says preliminary reports indicate sophomore retention rates are up and RC wait lists for juniors and seniors are longer than ever. 

Hear more from Troy as well as execs from Aspen Heights, Core Campus, Virtus Real Estate Capital and Axiometrics at our Austin University Development and Student Housing event on Oct. 27. Sign up here.

Related Topics: Troy Behrens, Dr. Troy Behrens, SMU