How Can Colleges Improve Enrollment? Major in Hygiene.

Enrollment at colleges is being hurt by one factor that most admissions officers rarely think about: the cleanliness of your bathrooms. In fact, a recent survey of 1000 students revealed that 65% took stock of the bathrooms before they decided to enroll…and 57% found the bathrooms to be distinctly lacking in the basic appeal of cleanliness.

Of course, as parents of cleanliness-challenged, college-age kids can attest, it’s tempting to put the blame on students — and surely some of it rests there. But there are any number of steps your institution can take to keep your bathrooms both sanitary and attractive (and prevent them from turning off prospective students). Here are three good places to start.

Don’t Throw in the Hand Towel — Upgrade it
The most common consumer “touch point” with college cleanliness is the common hand towel. Whether it’s parents using the restroom during their first campus tour, or high school students visiting older friends and having to wade through wasted towels in an older-style group bath,
first impressions count.

In this case, those old-fashioned towel dispensers — the kind that allow you to grab as many towels as you want all at once — can be your worst enemy, as dispensing by the handful inevitably incurs waste and creates a mess. One easy fix is to look for hand towel dispensers that are designed to control consumption, reducing waste and the accidental, unsightly and unhygienic discharge of paper towels on to counters and floors (a reduction which also helps keeps janitorial costs under control).

Make Sure Your Clean is Green
Keep in mind, however, that with college kids and the parents who shell out thousands to send them to school, not all hand towels (or any other paper products) are created equal. This is a group to which issues of environmental stewardship and sustainability really matter. Research shows that 65% of college applicants care about a school’s environmental commitment — and commitment must be demonstrated, not just proclaimed. So look for suppliers that not only offer recycled paper products, but which also practice sustainability all along the supply chain, and throughout their own organizations.

Next Time, Design Bathrooms with Clean in Mind
The ideal approach is to be able to address bathroom cleanliness from scratch, so when you’re building or remodeling facilities, take advantage of new trends in design and product technologies. One popular approach to dorm design has been to have suites, with smaller shared baths, in which individuals may take more personal pride and ownership, keeping them cleaner. But even without en suite baths, you can tap into those sentiments with new group bath designs that include more privacy in spaces such as toilets, showers and even sinks.

There are, of course, many factors influencing enrollment. As the research referenced above shows, every aspect of an institution needs to be considered, right done to the cleanliness of bathrooms and the quality of products used to keep a campus clean and green.

The Princeton Review’s “College Hopes and Worries” survey
American College Health Association