College student population drops

December 19, 2008
By

JOHN RUCH

Jamaica Plain’s college student population appears to have dropped about 1 percent in the past year, according to a city census that found at least 1,053 students living in the neighborhood.

That means that about 3 percent of JP’s population consists of full-time college or professional school students.

The majority (551) are graduate students. Undergraduates total 502. The data is incomplete—especially because it doesn’t include the University of Massachusetts Boston—and the actual student population is surely significantly higher.

The top sources of students in JP are: Northeastern University (260); Boston University (130); Massachusetts College of Art and Design (123); New England Conservatory of Music (97); and Harvard University (95). Students from at least 25 colleges live in the neighborhood.

Most of those numbers are down from last year, when the annual count found 1,403 students in JP. Considering that the School of the Museum of Fine Arts did not report its JP population last year, the drop is probably even more significant.

While the number is lower this year, the percentage of undergrads is higher.

The neighborhood student population count is required under the University Accountability Ordinance written by City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square.

The count is self-reported to the city by institutions. This is the first year that all institutions have to use the same form to make the report. Previously, they used their own highly varied methods, making comparisons and counts difficult.

There are still various quirks in the counting process that mean the actual student population is higher.

A major qualification is that the reporting requirement applies only to private, Boston-based institutions. For example, Harvard’s count includes only its Boston-based schools of business, medicine, dentistry and public health.

But MassArt, a state school, reports voluntarily. This year, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge reported as well.

The count is reported only by ZIP code, which does not exactly match neighborhoods. The JP count is based on the core 02130 ZIP code. That leaves out most of Egleston Square, among other areas.

Late or unreported data appears to be another problem. The Gazette could not find a report for Suffolk University in the City Clerk’s files. Suffolk had 80 students in JP last year.

Showa Boston Institute for Language and Culture, a residential semester-abroad branch of Showa Women’s University in Japan, has never filed a student count report. Showa Boston, on Pond Street in Moss Hill, is an unusual academic program, and it is unclear whether the University Accountability Ordinance applies to it. Showa has the only on-campus college student housing in JP.

Colleges are supposed to report the student count within 45 days of the start of the fall semester. But MGH Institute of Health Professions, which has 10 students in JP, filed its count on Dec. 5—four days before its fall semester ended.

A new requirement this year that all institutions report the numbers uniformly. Ross said that after Mission Hill’s Problem Properties Task Force complained, his office worked with the City Clerk’s Office and the Boston Redevelopment Authority on the new count-reporting form.

“We realized there was a problem with consistency,” Ross told the Gazette. “We weren’t getting apples-to-apples.”

The form also now requires institutions to list any properties they own, lease or otherwise operate as student housing.

The University Accountability Ordinance is intended to shed light on the crowding of off-campus undergraduates into certain neighborhoods, especially Ross’s home Mission Hill area. Mission Hill, while much smaller than JP, is home to more than 1,400 undergrads.

The numbers tell a different story in JP. Graduate students make up more than half of the reported student population. Students are probably best known in the neighborhood for significant contributions to the local arts scene and for the attractiveness of grad students as tenants in the real estate market.

Art schools remain well-represented in the JP population, including MassArt, New England Conservatory, Berklee College of Music (54) and the Museum School (46).

The student counts are based on internal institutional information. Individual addresses or other personal information are never given to the city and are not made public. Most full-time colleges require their off-campus students to provide accurate address information under threat of sanctions.

Best of JP 2014