Students from the Penyafort-Montserrat residence hall in Barcelona, last year.Quique Garcia / EFE
College and graduate students are already returning from their vacations to get through a new academic year, which will be very different from the previous one. Of the almost 1.6 million young people who are enrolled in Spanish universities and business schools, around 494,000 will pack their bags to travel from their city of origin to other provinces, according to a study by the consulting firm Deloitte.
In this first year with a majority of the vaccinated population, the residence halls, residences and shared flats are raffled off to students looking for accommodation. The quality of the services determines the monthly cost of this residential offer.
Currently, student residences offer around 97,000 beds, insufficient, experts say, to meet the accommodation needs of 5,000 new students who will move in the next two years. It is necessary to increase the offer by more than 19,000 new places, calculates Deloitte, which in its study places special emphasis on the fact that nearly 400,000 students are still housed in an “obsolete” rental park.
“The search for autonomy and the possibility, at the same time, of maintaining a full social and academic life are the main reasons for students to live in a residence hall”, says Álvaro Soto, CEO of Grupo Movaral, promoter in the sector of student residences with more than 4,000 beds located in Spain.
Soto confirms that “there is a lack of places in accordance with the quality standards sought by today’s youth. Good facilities and services as well as elements such as Wi-Fi play an important role when choosing a residence ”. Its price can exceed 1,500 euros depending on its location, the type of room (single or double) or the board (half or full) chosen by the student.
However, this expansion of student residences, supported mainly by investment funds, worries the university majors, considering that they defend a business model more than an educational project.
The schools, non-profit university institutions, reinvest the profits obtained in the improvement of their facilities (conference rooms, theater, music spaces, gyms, etc.) and their educational program. “We know of cases of residence halls that have been bought by residences where the first thing they did was to reconvert common areas, for example, the assembly hall, to set up more rooms,” explains Juan Muñoz, president of the Council of University Residence Halls, who It represents 125 centers and 17,000 students from 24 universities.
“To date, we have not been able to identify any investment fund that manages university residences and that maintains programs similar to those of schools that serve to promote access to higher education, and that allow improving the conditions of students based on talent and achievement. effort ”, maintain from the Council of University Halls of Residence.
In September 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, the occupancy level of the residence halls was 97.30%, similar to that expected for the 2021-2022 academic year. Although, due to the covid, almost 40% of the centers had to reduce their available places, converting double rooms into single ones. They also eased the pockets of the students by freezing their monthly fees, “which will remain largely unchanged during this year, or at least updated with the CPI,” Muñoz points out. The average monthly cost per student in a college of residence is around 1,000 euros.
A native of Vitoria, David Pozo, who will begin his fourth year in the Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering at the ETSIAE (UPM) in Madrid in September, has lived at the Colegio Mayor Chaminade for three years. This center costs around 1,100 per month, although from the third year you get a discount that lowers the fee to 800 euros. “We have a dining room, laundry, gym, swimming pool, multisport court, rehearsal room, auditorium… Let’s say that all tastes and hobbies are satisfied. As for activities, there are conferences, talks, courses, debates, and in the sporting aspect there are teachers, coaches of multiple sports, from aerial fabrics, through fencing, to soccer ”, describes David. “Students are not clients or guests, we are part of the school, and we participate in the decisions.”
Also the offer of shared flats, an option chosen by second or third year or postgraduate students, mainly, has stabilized in the last year and has only grown by 6%, according to a report published by the Idealista portal.
“The volume of available rooms has been stable since last summer, when the growth was 30%. We continue in a very high range of existing supply, which may be reduced as the vaccination processes progress, ”explains Francisco Iñareta, Idealista spokesperson.
According to this portal, San Sebastián is the most expensive city to rent a room (406 euros per month), followed by Barcelona (395) and Palma (376). In Madrid the rental price for shared flats has fallen to 370 euros per month.
Pedro Govantes, 22, who will start a master’s degree in Psychology in San Sebastián this year, has sought, from Seville and through the portal Erasmusu.com, a room in a shared flat. Although he expected to find “somewhat cheaper” options, the truth is that he has finally got a room at a good price, 350 euros per month, taking into account the average cost of the room in San Sebastián.
“The most searched on our website, with 85%, are rooms in a shared flat. We also allow you to search for residences and halls of residence, but in terms of volume the room rental wins by a landslide, which gives students more freedom and also more affordable prices ”, says Miguel Ángel Díez, CEO of Erasmusu. So far this year this portal has managed more than 3,800 accommodation reservations, and expects to end 2021 with at least 9,000.
Dondememeto.com is another portal that arises to cover the urgent need for university accommodation. According to its founder Kini López, “the younger the student is and the higher the family income, the preferred option is that of a student residence or college. Families prefer to house their children there because they don’t have to worry about anything other than studying ”. In addition, he emphasizes, “the food is covered, also the cleaning services, they have facilities for studying, many even for sports, but above all it is the security that gives them knowing that they have the supervision of an organization that takes care of their children before any unforeseen event that may arise ”.