Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Challenges to Managing a University Fleet

Fleet of vans
Universities utilize a large number of vehicles every day for various operations. Whether a vehicle transports students to and from campus or carries vital maintenance equipment, each one is extremely valuable both in purpose and replacement cost.

However, meeting maintenance schedules and keeping the fleet running aren't the only challenges. Depending on how many vehicles are in your fleet, you could be dealing with hundreds or even thousands of keys. Having a system in place to assist with key management is critical to keeping vehicles secure and preventing misuse.

Let's go over some of the specific challenges you'll face when managing your fleet's keys, and how you can overcome them.

Dealing With Misplaced and Unreturned Keys

Any time you give keys to an employee, there's a possibility that those keys will get misplaced or stolen. Whether an employee forgets a key on a bench or a stranger swipes it from an unsuspecting staff member, the end results is a vehicle — or even an entire fleet — left exposed. Your department is then faced with buying an expensive replacement key or having the vehicle rekeyed completely (more on that later).

The potential for losing a key could be compounded by student workers who have access to fleet vehicles, such as campus buses. Studies have set the average attention span of Generation Z, which makes up the bulk of your student workforce, at around eight seconds. From smartphones and social media to class schedules and projects, your student workers already face a number of daily distractions that could lead to a misplaced key. It's important to keep them on the right track and ensure the keys they use end up where they belong at the end of their shifts.

Replacing Locks and Keys

Like we mentioned earlier, when keys are lost or stolen, you may have to pay to get one or even all of your vehicles rekeyed.

Though it wasn't a university fleet, the Anchorage Police Department found out the hard way that the price for rekeying vehicles can get extremely high. The department paid $140,000 to change the locks on all of its patrol cars after it suspected that keys were taken during a robbery at a local tire shop. The department discovered that certain keys could start any patrol car of the same make and model, prompting the massive key change.

While vehicles in your fleet might not share keys across multiple cars, you could still incur substantial rekeying and key replacement costs if even one key were to go missing. Replacing modern key fobs can be expensive, with costs ranging anywhere between $50 and $400, depending on the vehicle brand. But that's for the fobs alone since programming will be an additional price of $50 to $100. How many locks and keys can you replace before making a serious dent in your budget?

Keeping Your Campus Safe

Unnecessary expenses aren't the only thing your department faces when keys are lost. Even if you think you have the best policies for managing your fleet, poorly secure keys leave your entire university and students at risk.

Stolen vehicles can be used in criminal activities or lead to traffic collisions, affecting students' lives and your university's safety reputation. That's in addition to the potential that your university could be held liable for damages resulting from the misuse of a stolen fleet vehicle if your key control practices are ruled inadequate.

Finding a Solution

Controlling your fleet keys doesn't have to be a nightmare. Consider using an electronic key control system that secures and automatically tracks access to keys to mitigate security risks and remove uncertainty about who's using your vehicles and why.

Limit the risk of full-time or student employees misplacing or losing keys by holding them accountable for what happens to keys they're responsible for. An electronic key control system should be able to alert a manager if a key isn't returned within a set amount of time, giving you the ability to react quickly and know exactly who should have the key. This encourages employees to practice good stewardship of keys.

Key management might be the last thing you worry about when it comes to your university fleet of vehicles. But when a key gets lost or stolen, you'll wish key security had always been at the top of your mind. Get ahead of the risk and use an electronic key control system to manage your fleet's keys.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

How to Make Your Multifamily Property Appeal to College Students and Their Parents

Young woman with mother moving into apartment
Shared bathrooms. Crowded laundry facilities. Cinder-block rooms the size of a postage stamp. These are just a few of the realities of dorm living that drive 36 percent of private-university students and 60 percent of public-university students to live off-campus.

Some higher education institutions that are experiencing a shortage of on-campus housing are even offering students incentives to find alternatives to dorm living.

If your multifamily property is located near a college or university and would like to increase occupancy, targeting these college students could be the answer, even if your property isn’t a dedicated student housing community. The key is appealing to students and their parents.

Attracting Student Residents

When looking for off-campus housing, students have fairly practical expectations. They want basic amenities such as computer/printing stations, high-speed Wi-Fi, in-unit washers and dryers, and parking.

Students also tend to be budget conscious and appreciate value. Living in an off-campus apartment might not be much more expensive than living on campus (in fact, it might even be less expensive!). The national average cost of room and board in a dormitory is $8,887-$10,089, which averages out to $987-$1,121 each month for a nine-month school year. For an apartment shared with a roommate for a 12-month lease, the average cost of rent, utilities, internet, and groceries, amounts to $895 a month.

While basic amenities like internet access and a convenient place to do laundry might not seem like huge selling features, be sure to highlight them when marketing to college students. To emphasize affordability, be upfront with all costs (rent, fees, etc.) and show cost breakdowns for the various floorplans you offer. Bear in mind that this tactic is likely to be less effective if you’re located in a more expensive city such as New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco.

Appealing to Parents of Students

When it comes to getting college students to sign a lease with your property, getting parents on board is critical, especially if they’ll be the ones writing the rent check. Research by Conversion Logix found that while 18-24-year-olds searched the most for student housing, there were a significant number of 45-54-year-olds searching as well. This indicates that parents are on the hunt for apartments for their college students.

When parents help their children select a college, safety is a top consideration. In a Wearsafe survey, over half of parents said they were “very concerned” about their child’s safety while away at college. If you want your property to appeal to parents of prospective students, security is a key selling feature to build a good reputation for your property and put parents’ minds at ease.

While you likely already have security measures in place, such as lighting or gated access, don’t neglect one essential component of a safe community: measures to control employees’ and contractors’ access to keys. Put yourself in parents’ shoes. How would you feel about an employee or contractor having access to a master key for the apartment in which your student lives?

Unfortunately, misuse of keys can easily go unnoticed if employees or contractors have a legitimate reason to be using them. For example, maintenance personnel need access to keys in order to address maintenance issues. But what happens if someone begins using these keys to unlawfully enter units? What if contractors are given access to keys without adequate oversight?

To hold employees accountable and mitigate security risks, implement a process for creating an verifiable audit trail that shows who checked out a key, when they used it, and how long they had it. If you use an electronic key control system that allows you to receive text or email alerts for overdue keys, take advantage of that feature.

By balancing college students’ and their parents’ expectations, you can present your property as the ideal place for college students to call home.