Expanding graduate student housing

October 16, 2017
Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor, 2014–2021 | Martin A. Schmidt, Provost, 2014–2022 | Israel Ruiz, Executive Vice President and Treasurer, 2011–2020 |

To the members of the graduate student body:

We write to share the interim report of the Graduate Student Housing Working Group, our response to some of its key recommendations, and our gratitude to Chair Ian Waitz and all members of the group for their informative analysis.

The group's work to assess current graduate student housing needs and demand is not fully complete, but its preliminary findings have started to inform our plan, which we detail below, to expand MIT's 2016–17 graduate student housing stock by at least 950 beds.

Report Overview

The group focused its initial assessment in several areas, including: the Cambridge housing market; today's graduate student population; and cost comparisons across on-campus and off-campus housing options. The working group has begun to utilize a conjoint analysis to assess what features MIT graduate students value in their housing and what they are willing to pay for that housing. Additional work will be conducted over the coming months to evaluate housing assignment policies and to quantify demand for new housing options.

We encourage you to read and provide feedback on the interim report, but want to briefly highlight a few of the points that we found to be the most salient when the group briefed us last Friday:

  • In the 1980s and 1990s, MIT housed 31% of our graduate students on campus; today we house 38%.
  • Between 1997 and 2017, MIT added 1,470 units of graduate student housing. In 2020, when the graduate student residence hall in Kendall Square comes online, MIT will have invested more than $700 million in graduate student housing construction projects.
  • Through the Kendall Square Initiative and Volpe development proposal, MIT is committed to adding 1,700 units to the Cambridge market, of which approximately 340 units will be designated as permanently subsidized affordable housing.
  • Despite these efforts, the Cambridge housing market remains constrained. At the same time, while our graduate student population has remained relatively flat in recent years, preference for on-campus housing has grown.
  • The working group estimates that about 1,000 to 1,100 graduate students who currently live off-campus might prefer to live on-campus if additional housing became available.
  • According to the initial results of the conjoint analysis, our students seem to prioritize price, unit type, short commute times, air conditioning, and access to grocery and restaurant options more than they value (and are willing to pay for) large bedrooms and building amenities such as community space, fitness centers, and parking.

Expansion Plan & Response to Key Recommendations

While the group still has work to do to complete the assessment called for in its charge, the challenges that have been identified require an immediate response. Today we are committing to the following graduate student housing expansion plan:

  • The new 450-unit graduate student residence hall is currently under construction in Kendall Square and will net 250 new beds. It is planned to come online in 2020;
  • MIT will build a new residence hall with at least 500 beds. We have already begun exploring sites for this new building and will apply for a discretionary or building permit no later than the end of 2020; and
  • Before the end of 2020, we will work to add or apply for a discretionary, alteration or building permit to increase by 200 the number of permanent graduate beds by converting existing beds (for example, 70 Amherst Street) and/or establishing new beds on MIT’s campus or properties owned by MIT.

The addition of 950 new beds will allow the Institute to house more than 50% of our current graduate student population on campus. 

We are making these commitments in connection with MIT's Volpe zoning petition and without the benefit of the additional analysis the working group will be doing to estimate demand for future graduate student housing options from their stated preference estimates. We are pleased that our 950-figure comes close to matching the working group's initial findings.

We are also going to follow through on two of the working group's recommendations right now:

  • Working with students, heads of house, and house teams, the Division of Student Life's Housing Office will begin to evaluate several of the group's proposals to make it easier for students to access our current housing stock. The goal of this work is to improve the on-campus housing assignment process and how we assist students with off-campus housing searches.
  • We will formalize a process like this one to ensure that a detailed evaluation of graduate student housing is conducted every three years and our commitments are updated as appropriate, in accordance with recommendations of future working groups.

We look forward to learning more from the working group's continued efforts. And we thank all of them for helping us make headway on a very complex and important issue. 


Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor

Martin A. Schmidt, Provost

Israel Ruiz, Executive Vice President and Treasurer