Case Study

Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey

Graduate Student and Postdoc Housing Initiatives, 2006 to 2019 ongoing

Demographic Perspectives has been working with Princeton University since 2000, during which time we worked with the Office of the Provost to administer and analyze student, alumni, and parent climate surveys and have had an ongoing relationship with University Services to study housing demand for graduate students, faculty, and staff.

As part of the overall housing plan, Princeton was planning to decommission one complex of its extensive graduate student housing offerings for renovation and re-design. In a focus group setting, Demographic Perspectives met with over 100 graduate students to learn the housing preferences of current residents, and to probe deeper into the impact that removing the complex might have on student recruitment and retention.

Demographic Study for Renovation

Princeton developed a series of renovation options for graduate student housing, each consisting of a different unit mix. While all the options satisfied the overall bed capacity goal, it was unclear whether there was student demand by population sub-group (i.e. single, married/partnered students, students with children) for the proposed unit compositions. Before embarking on the renovation, the key issue for Princeton was to evaluate which of these options provided the most appropriate supply and unit mix for its graduate student population. As well, Princeton needed to understand the projected future housing choices of students living in low-cost units in a university housing complex that was coming off-line.

For this inquiry, DP worked with the Office of the Provost and the Graduate School to assemble a joint student information system/housing system dataset that matched demographic information to all students in housing. Using this dataset, DP developed a custom methodology to build future scenario projections. The results of the analysis were used to test-fit the graduate population into different unit mix distributions, and to estimate the capacity impact of adding or deleting specific housing units. Princeton based its selection of a renovation option on this analysis.

Demand for New Housing in New Location for Graduate Students and Postdocs

As Princeton solidified its plans to increase the proportion of campus housing available for graduate students, DP was engaged to conduct a demand and preferences analysis for a graduate housing development in a new campus location. DP worked with University Services and the Graduate School to conduct focus groups and a full survey of all graduate students to assess demand, evaluate pricing, and explore preferences for unit types, common spaces, retail offerings and transportation options.

The second phase of the study focuses on the opportunity to offer housing to Princeton postdocs as part of this new development. The postdoc demand assessment includes stakeholder interviews and a survey of all postdocs.

Actionable Outcomes:

  • Confirmed strong demand from students currently living in Private-Market Housing for studios and 1-bedroom units.
  • Established strong demand for new University housing for all subgroups of students currently living in both Princeton and Private-Market Housing (by year in program, length of program, living situation, and nationality).
  • Explored and defined the small portion of students who are committed to living in Private-Market Housing.
  • Top features for a new campus location included: high demand for all proposed common spaces, universal interest in Fitness and BBQ, high demand for all suggested retail spaces; strong interest in small grocery, late hours convenience store.
  • New housing location rated favorably as compared to current housing on most aspects.

To learn more about this case study, contact Demographic Perspectives today.