Location: San Diego, California
University: San Diego State University
In 2019, Campus Advantage was hired to perform due diligence on a 246-bed asset that was 87% pre-leased. The property had a slow start with their marketing and renewal efforts in fall 2018 due to San Diego State University implementing a new policy requiring both freshman and sophomore students to live on campus. Campus Advantage was also hired to oversee the property management and to implement an aggressive marketing and leasing strategy.
Upon taking over management, Campus Advantage immediately increased the property’s customer service standards and hosted various resident events to begin to build a sense of community. Campus Advantage’s Students First® Experience residence life program was implemented, and a resident appreciation week was hosted after the fall 2019 move-in to jumpstart the leasing season early and establish a positive reputation for the property. By fall 2020, Campus Advantage achieved 100% occupancy despite the global pandemic and the university announcing that all classes would be held online.
In fall of 2020, the University of San Diego’s total enrollment continued to increase by 1.4% from fall 2019; however, four of the 10 off-campus competitors were only able to achieve 63%-81% occupancy. Campus Advantage shifted its leasing strategy to primarily focus on digital efforts promoting Paseo Place’s prime location, secured entry, and competitive rates due to double-occupancy options. There was also a continued heavy focus on resident engagement during the critical six-week window after move-in, and this focus continued throughout the academic year which helped continue to foster the sense of community and resident connection notwithstanding COVID-19 restrictions. These combined efforts have allowed the property to continue to lead the market, being pre-leased ahead by 11% in March 2021, at a time when the San Diego market was behind the prior year’s total market average by approximately 21%.
Bridges on Forbes
Opening a New Campus in the Russian Far East
Campus Advantage provided four years of consulting services for a new university campus in the Russian Far East. The project was a high-profile initiative of the Ministry of Education to create a world-class institution based on western design and operating standards. Several of Campus Advantage’s team members spent six months living and working at the campus in 2014.
The campus is located on Russian Island near the port city of Vladivostok, next to the border of China on the Sea of Japan. Fall classes commenced in September 2013 with approximately 25,000 students. CA’s work focused on four main areas: residence life programming, on-campus housing management, international marketing, and summer camps and conferences.
Campus Advantage was first invited to assist with the project in 2010 by the builder of the $7 billion project, who was based in Moscow. During visits to Moscow, CA had the opportunity to meet with several high-ranking leaders in the Russian federal government who were educated in the United States and Western Europe. These individuals were very interested in replicating the feel and atmosphere of western campuses at the new university in Vladivostok with the goal of attracting international students and faculty.
The campus includes over 12,000 beds of new housing. A team of architects from Moscow and the United States worked together with CA’s consulting group to design and plan the unit mix, common areas, and amenity spaces throughout the residence halls. This was the first new university built in Russia in many years, and the goal was to incorporate a true residential experience based on western traditional campuses.
Campus Advantage’s time in Russia was carefully designed to provide the university with tools that would assist their goals of raising their QS World University Ranking and becoming a world-class institution. The consulting team worked closely with university staff to provide training, policies, and procedures. One of the most exciting tasks accomplished was the development and implementation of the first Resident Assistant program in the country. With help from higher education marketing agency Catalyst, Campus Advantage developed recruiting concepts and materials that led to hundreds of students applying and interviewing to be chosen for the program.
Campus Advantage shared policies and procedures to help the campus create a roommate-matching program and customer-service-based management practices. CA also recommended special programs to assist international students and further advised on methods to increase access for students with disabilities. By putting a summer-turn plan in place, CA provided the university with the necessary tools to handle students moving in and out over a short period of time.
Working closely with Catalyst, CA was able to present the concept of a campus mascot and a university merchandise program. A faculty committee and student organization reviewed several mascot concepts and designs, along with a business plan for launching university spirit-wear and other branded products.
The work Campus Advantage conducted at Far Eastern Federal University provided them with the tools necessary to increase their QS World University Ranking — as well as ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Times Higher Education World University Rankings — and was very well received by both the Russian federal government and the university. CA worked with Erik Holm-Olsen at the U.S. Consulate in Vladivostok, who stated, “Campus Advantage, from everything I have seen, has been an excellent representative of the American private sector in Vladivostok.”
A sampling of accomplishments:
- Introduced residence life programming to the FEFU campus
- Created a mascot and a university merchandise program
- Implemented world-class standards for residence hall management
- Provided multiple opportunities to expand conference business at FEFU
- Hosted several events on campus for students, allowing the FEFU staff and students to interact socially
- Designed furniture and décor for leisure areas in the building
Fort Collins, CO and Charlotte, NC
Campus Advantage performed due diligence on two potential acquisitions in Fort Collins, Colorado and Charlotte, North Carolina in June 2016. Campus Advantage’s approach to the due diligence process included the following components.
Campus Advantage meticulously examined each lease file and guarantor agreement for all current and future residents who pre-leased for the upcoming year. The data documented on the lease files was compared to the rent roll to ensure a proper calculation of the properties’ revenue. During the process, student demographics were also noted to better assess the student base at the properties, as well as to aid in the development of future marketing campaigns. The team also recorded concessions to confirm assumptions made in the underwriting of the properties. Campus Advantage discovered numerous missing lease files, and the investor was able to negotiate a guaranty with the seller. Incorrect concessions and rent premiums were also identified during the audit and brought to the attention of the investor.
Both properties underwent a physical inspection, including all units and common area spaces. All damages were noted and compiled into the report to produce capital expenditure projections. Campus Advantage found construction punch items that were skipped and landscaping projects that were deferred, allowing the investor to negotiate the completion of these projects before purchasing the assets. The CA facilities team also identified future Wi-Fi upgrades that needed to be added into the five-year capital plan.
The Campus Advantage team thoroughly analyzed the Fort Collins and Charlotte markets to assess the properties’ positions in the markets and confirm revenue assumptions made in the underwriting. Team members also consulted a variety of primary and secondary sources to compile a complete pipeline of future student housing development in both markets. Developments not released to the public yet were identified, allowing the investor to make changes to their underwriting to factor in the additional supply.
After all the data was compiled and analyzed, Campus Advantage recommended that the investor move forward with purchasing both acquisition opportunities. The investor closed on the Fort Collins property in December 2016.
“Campus Advantage completed two due diligence reports for [Company] in the summer of 2016: Charlotte, NC and Fort Collins, CO. They provided us with valuable information in regard to the properties’ overall physical condition, lease file audit, and supplied us with detailed information on various items that needed to be addressed during the due diligence period. Campus Advantage also supplemented the due diligence reports with a market analysis. These analyses gave us a full overview of the universities’ enrollment, current competitive market, and pipeline, which helped us with our decision in acquiring the assets. Campus Advantage was given a short window to deliver these reports, and both were delivered to us on time. They were also available to us whenever any follow-up items needed to be addressed. Their work is greatly appreciated!”
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA
Campus Advantage was retained by the Investor in August 2011 to perform the due diligence process for their acquisition of Hawks Ridge (formerly known as The Lodge) in Iowa City, IA. Campus Advantage’s approach to the due diligence included the following components:
Lease Audit – Campus Advantage meticulously examined each lease file for current residents of the property. The data documented on the lease files was compared to that reported in the rent roll to ensure a proper calculation of the property’s revenue. During the process, student demographics were also noted to better assess the student base at the property, as well as to aid in the development of future marketing campaigns. The team also recorded concessions to confirm assumptions made in the underwriting of the property.
Property Inspection – The entire property underwent a physical inspection, including all units and common area space. All damages were noted and compiled into our report to produce capital expenditure projections through the first 10 years of operations.
Market Analysis – Our team thoroughly analyzed the Iowa City market to assess the property’s position in the market and confirm revenue assumptions made in the underwriting.
After all the data was compiled and analyzed, Campus Advantage recommended that the Investor move forward with the acquisition, as it is the only fully amenitized property offering bundled utilities, by-the-bed leasing, and social programming to its residents in this market. It was also determined that the property would benefit from Campus Advantage’s specialized management skills and residence life programming. The Investor closed on the deal in late October 2011.