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Amenity Investments Attract More Students

The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) released a research report on Monday indicating that four-year colleges do not necessarily need to promise the best academics to attract the most students.

The report, titled College as Country Club: Do Colleges Cater to Students’ Preferences for Consumption?, explains that allocating resources toward facilities or amenities is an effective approach to attracting more student enrollments. The study analyzed spending behaviors of four-year institutions and compared the spending to students’ stated resource-allocation preferences.

The NBER suggests that students wanted their institution’s resources invested in amenities such as student activities, food services, admissions and student health. Spending on these types of categories, according to the report, is seen as valuable to students. Further, whether or not a college has invested resources in various amenities strongly influences a student’s decision to enroll in that institution, according to the report.

At Austin Peay State University (APSU) 40 percent of students are non-traditional. In an effort to cater to the wants and needs of their student demographic, the school recently opened The Adult and Non-traditional Student Center. APSU wanted adult learners to have a designated space within the institution and enjoy meeting and socializing with other non-traditional students.

“It’s important to have somewhere to go because you want a place to be surrounded by people like you who you have something in common with,” Tamara Bey, a non-traditional student enrolled at APSU, told The Leaf Chronicle.

The NBER report concludes that the students who would rather their institution invest in academic resources — such as courses and libraries — are likely to be the same students who are able to consider and afford enrolling at highly competitive and prestigious institutions.

The bottom line, as mentioned in the report, is that a majority of four-year colleges will fare better with student enrollments if their spending focus is on student-preferred amenities.

“One important implication of our analysis is that for many institutions, demand-side market pressure may not compel investment in academic quality, but rather in consumption amenities,” the report states. “This is an important finding given that quality assurance is primarily provided by demand-side pressure: the fear of losing students is believed to compel colleges to provide high levels of academic quality.”