USG housing partner pressures colleges to reopen for financial gain

Amid the spike in COVID-19 cases, universities contemplate between in-person classes and remote learning. But Corvias, a real estate company for military and student housing, settled the debate by discouraging University System of Georgia institutions like Georgia State from shifting to online-learning due to the threatening financial outcomes it could have on the company.

In a letter addressed to Georgia’s Board of Regents on May 29, a Corvias representative wrote that there is no “unilateral right” given to the BoR to “either (a) prevent students at the institutions from living on campus, or (b) have the intent and effect of discouraging students of the institutions from living on campus.”

Throughout the letter, Corvias addresses the concerns that it has for the “alternative plans” the BoR was deliberating for the upcoming semester.   

The letter came to light through an open record request submitted by a Georgia Tech student and was shared to Twitter on August 4.

The surfacing of this information drove student suspicion that the pressure to return to on-campus instruction was motivated by the student housing company’s financial gain.

Headquartered in Rhode Island, Corvias Property Management was founded in 1998 and has a yearly income of $264 million. The company holds partnerships with the institutions in the USG and has reportedly cleared the system of over $500 million of debt in 2014.

In 2015, Corvias partnered with Georgia State to design and build student housing on a 40-year contract. Georgia State is the largest project in the USG portfolio for financing through Corvias. 

Though Corvias pushed for the USG to reopen schools, rumors — now denied by the USG — emerged through a student’s Facebook post that Georgia State still put in a request to the USG to shift all undergraduate classes online to begin the fall semester.

Public relations for Georgia State did not respond to a request for comment by The Signal, however, Vice Chancellor for Communications of the USG Aaron Diamant said that Georgia State has made no such request.

As it stands, Georgia State will return to in-person classes and, ultimately, disregard its initial convictions for the sake of Corvias’s finances.

A public agenda for a June 10, USG staff meeting states that Georgia State intends to reopen this fall semester with 75% of students occupying the dorms. Though it is not the 100% occupancy that was stressed in the contract that Georgia State made with Corvias, the company is still accommodated.

The university also plans to convert double rooms to single rooms, but “charge a higher single occupancy rate.” So, students will have to pay more in housing fees.

The agenda states that this decision will have a negative financial impact, causing a decrease of $3.1 million in gross revenue for the fiscal year of 2021.

At this rate, Corvias is going to lose more money attempting to keep student housing in effect as many students are taking necessary precautions against the pandemic and no longer residing in student housing. 

Corvias’s student housing intends to follow CDC guidelines as well but does not care to limit the number of students inside the dorms. 

“While the CDC may be of the belief that reducing density in student housing may lower the possibility of infection, we do not believe that requires a reduction in the number of roommates that would typically be permitted,” the letter states.

This is inconsistent with the company’s way of operating through the pandemic as the need for social distancing is acknowledged. 

The letter went on to state that universities can not have a policy that would limit the number of students in housing or reduce the cost of housing fees. Ultimately, Corvias wants universities to encourage students to dorm on campus for more expensive fees.