Coronavirus pushing students off campus but pricey rents still linger

The coronavirus pandemic has forced many colleges to close their doors and go virtual. Now some students who signed early leases are left wondering if they need -- or can still afford --them.

“Pre-COVID, student housing was this steady, coupon-clipping business,” John Pawlowski, a senior analyst for real estate research firm Green Street Advisors, told The Orange County Register. “COVID-19 hit and campuses closed in the spring, and there was a lot of uncertainty.”

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In Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, nearly half, or 44 percent, of 39 college campuses plan to be fully or mostly online in the fall, according to Chronicle of Higher Education data. The University of California, Los Angeles, for example, is forecasting up to 20 percent of its courses, like performing arts and clinical health, will have a hybrid online option.

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At the same time, lease rates for the 2020-21 academic year for big private student housing providers are parallel last year’s rates. According to data from apartment data firm RealPage, 89 percent of professionally managed student housing beds were pre-leased as of May.

There is help for some. The Scion Group recently announced that at Orange Coast College, students will be allowed to cancel their leases through July 5 or push the start date to spring.

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