the garret

What’s top of mind at KSQ


Rethinking the On-Campus Student Apartment


Apartment-style student housing has been on campuses for decades, but has often occupied a small niche in a school’s inventory.  Often relegated to married students, or graduate students, many on-campus apartments were barely a notch in quality above traditional, freshman-level housing.

Now, as schools expand their inventories to keep more upper-division students on campus, apartments are enjoying a renaissance.  Research indicates that a considerable number of students do enjoy the convenience, safety, and affordability of living on campus.  Moreover, a furnished unit — with utilities included in a nine-month contract — is attractive to a young adult short on funds.

For those students with families, on-campus apartments could be the difference between completing their degrees or dropping out of school.  “I couldn’t stay in college without my apartment here,” declared a single parent recently at Texas Woman’s University.  “There’s no way I could even make rent on a place that’s safe enough for a small child.”  Some campuses notice a dearth of quality, affordable housing in their local off-campus markets, and a practice of exploiting desperate students, especially international students who might arrive in town just days before classes begin.

Even for upper-division undergraduates, apartments are attractive – especially when the units remain affordable, and when the communities retain some of the features and gathering spaces they appreciated in their freshman halls.  UT Dallas’s newest Canyon Creek community provides two and four-bedroom units in a range of price points, and includes space at every level for study and socialization.

Gathering space outside the apartment unit is an important factor in building community.  Common study spaces provide a neutral, safe place for students to meet and interact without bringing casual acquaintances into their dwelling space or entering others’ units. And outdoor areas—from fire pits and gas grills to volleyball courts and hammock hangouts–are key to making the apartments feel like a community. Proximity to the university is often the best amenity of all, which means upperclassmen are more and more willing to stay on campus. Universities who discover the right mix of unit types and amenities at the right price point will have a waiting list on their hands.




5 Steps to a Successful School Bond Campaign


Managing a public school bond campaign is a challenging undertaking with many moving parts. A successful campaign requires the ability of the district to create, communicate, and excite the community with visions of the future while balancing the realities of a potential tax increase for voters. Ultimately, a successful school bond campaign educates voters so they understand and accept benefits outweigh costs. The challenge most districts face is how to shift the conversations from brick and mortar to values and beliefs.




We’ve worked with school districts for decades, helping them lay the foundation for success when it comes to stakeholder support. In our experience, five key factors can make or break the bond effort for your district and the students you serve.

  1. Invest in the power of partnerships. Schools that thrive find ways to create symbiotic relationships with the community—from nonprofits and corporations to leaders in City Hall. These communities need strong schools to recruit talented staff, bring new companies to town and educate tomorrow’s workforce with the skills that will be needed for tomorrow’s jobs. When preparing for the future—whether investments are needed in technology, buildings or transportation­­­­­–these partnerships can lend a hand to the planning process. For example, a district with aging buildings that no longer meet the needs of enrollment and/or curriculum requirements is wise to engage professionals from the design and construction industry to help conduct facility assessments, identify associated costs and schedule for renovation or demolition. They can also review any demographic analysis or other studies conducted that may inform what facilities the district may need in the next decade. Professionals are often willing to provide a certain range of services at very little cost to help the district create the plan, with no guarantee of future paid work. It’s part of being a good community partner and working together to achieve the big picture.

    KSQ’s ‘Building Blocks 101’ Lego class is one way we engage with our local districts–companies investing their time and talent in schools is a great way to garner community support.

  2. Get the collegiate perspective. With the landscape of higher education ever changing and the needs and demands for student skills always evolving, school district leaders are wise to gather input from local and state higher education administrators to find out what makes for a prepared college student. Community colleges, technical schools and traditional four-year universities all look for key knowledge, traits and skill sets in incoming students—both hard and soft skills that are needed for success in post-secondary education and the world beyond. How their input can impact learning in the K-12 sector is something to consider.

    With an eye toward the future, this study lounge for a public high school in Oklahoma is part of a program to prepare students to test, apply and prepare for college.

  3. Hone your message. Once your district has a plan for a proposed package, you need to communicate the vision. Elevate the conversation above laptops, buses or brick buildings to the larger goal—the values and beliefs your district wants to improve upon. Is it student safety? 21st century learning? Life-long wellness? Or simply getting students out of portables? Communicating how the bond package underscores those type of core values reinforces a mission-driven approach that’s hard to vote against.
  4. Enlist some cheerleaders. Once you’ve identified your themes and have something for everyone to believe in, your district needs to not only communicate the what of the campaign but also the why of your campaign. If you’ve engage with local design professionals as you plan the bond, you’ll also have an array of conceptual images that help generate excitement and make the vision come to life. Armed with the what, the why and those illustrations, your district cheerleaders are ready to talk to a variety of stakeholders—parents, teachers, city leaders, business owners, the media and other key groups like local building contractors, parts and materials suppliers, and school equipment vendors. Think beyond school board meetings to connecting directly with local centers of influence. Small dinners, luncheons and one-one meetings with influential members of the community allow your leadership team to answer questions and get them on board in support of the vote so they can become your advocates.
  5. Celebrate and share your success. If your bond effort was successful, thank your stakeholders, cheerleaders and advocates who made it possible. Throw a district party—you’ve earned it! You have a great story now to tell—and likely quite a few lessons learned along the way. Publicize ground breakings and ribbon cuttings. Share your experience with others through an article, award submission, presentation at a school board conference or similar event. Pay it forward by sharing what you know and further cement your district’s reputation as a thought leader in advancing education­–and thereby setting your team up for success for the next time the district needs to garner public support.

* Editor’s Note:

KSQ NY Principal Scott Hillje and KSQ Charlotte Principal Doug Burns have led the firm’s effort to help local districts pass significant bond efforts. You can contact them for more information at or



Clients Say It Best


Our firm has been honored to work with Texas Christian University for more than 18 years, during which time we have helped transform student housing (and now dining) on the campus. From residence hall renovations to the iconic Campus Commons and now Worth Hills Village, our work there is at the top of our portfolio “must see” list. We recently sat down with Craig Allen, TCU Director of Housing & Residence Life to get his take on how KSQ has performed over the years. When it comes to telling your story, no one says it better than a happy client.