Heating and Cooling, Maintenance and Operations, Safety

Pandemic Made Campus Cleanliness, IAQ Top Factors for Future College Selection

If you’re a college or university trying to attract parents of prospective students, post-pandemic, you’ll likely want to up your game when it comes to perceived campus cleanliness and indoor air quality (IAQ).

That’s according to a new survey by JLL, a professional services firm that specializes in real estate and investment management. Conducted in partnership with Engine Insights, the JLL Higher Education survey was based on a sample of 500 parents of 10th- to 12th-grade high school students considering higher education.

college campus

The study indicates that factors attributing to student health and safety are top of mind for parents. In fact, 48% of parents with high schoolers rank campus cleanliness and IAQ in the top three most important factors when asked their opinion on their child’s impending college or university selection, and a total of 84% of parents rank campus cleanliness and IAQ as either important or somewhat important. Quality of academics took the top spot of importance, according to surveyed parents, followed by affordability of college or university.

“Proper indoor ventilation and air circulation occupied the spotlight across most industries in the height of the pandemic, with 59 percent of parents never even considering campus air quality prior to COVID-19,” says Ron Gregory, Executive Vice President for North America at JLL Higher Education. “As people are more aware of their surroundings that impact their health and safety with greater reason, we can expect that students and staff on campuses will continue to demand transparency and the highest standards around cleanliness and air quality.”

According to the survey, 42% of parents note that their sentiment toward campus cleanliness and IAQ increased as a result of COVID-19. While transparency around campus cleanliness and air quality remains top of mind, JLL says the way prospective students and their families perceive the health and safety of campus based upon appearance could also play a pivotal role in the decision process of whether to attend. Eighty-six percent of parents rank the look and feel of campus as either important or somewhat important when it comes to college selection. Furthermore, 88% of parents say the physical condition of buildings was either very important or somewhat important.

“From simple fixes like upgrading lightbulbs to harnessing new technologies across a campus, preventative maintenance is key for schools empowering vibrant campus experiences—before the physical condition of buildings becomes a turnoff to prospective students,” says Kevin Wayer, President of JLL Public Institutions. “Savings generated from preventative maintenance can go back into facilities upkeep, creating an overall better, cleaner, and more modern experience for students.”

Environmental sustainability has also emerged as a major factor in student recruitment and to nearly every major university stakeholder, from students and faculty to parents and alumni. JLL says the survey finds that 21% of parents became more interested in a school’s commitment to sustainability than they were before the pandemic, demonstrating the importance of a continued focus on sustainability when updating and developing new campus buildings.    

Additionally, as hundreds of colleges across the U.S. have implemented a vaccine mandate for students returning to their campus this upcoming school year, the survey also asked parents on how important a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is when considering a college or university for their child. According to the survey, 60% of parents responded with very important or somewhat important.