Local college student population rises

January 22, 2010
By

John Ruch

Jamaica Plain’s college student population is on the rise, according to a city census that found at least 1,219 full-time students living in the neighborhood.

That means that at least 1 in 30 JP residents is a full-time college or professional school student.

The majority (734) are graduate students. Undergraduates total 485. 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 five sources of students in JP are: Northeastern University (365); Boston University (126); Massachusetts College of Art and Design (97); Harvard University (82); and the New England Conservatory of Music (81). Students from at least 23 colleges live in the neighborhood.

At this time last year, the student population was at least 1,053. It was on the decline, dropping by about 350 students between 2007 and 2008. Most of that decline was among graduate students.

But this year, the student population rose, with graduate students making up most of the increase.

The neighborhood student population count is required under the University Accountability Ordinance written by City Councilor Mike Ross, who represents part of Hyde Square. It requires a census, self-reported by educational institutions, of all students living both on-campus and off-campus.

The student census is intended to shed light on the crowding of off-campus undergraduates into certain neighborhoods, especially Ross’s home Mission Hill neighborhood. Mission Hill, while about half the size of JP, is home to nearly 2,000 off-campus undergrads. Ross recently targeted Northeastern University for its heavy contribution to that population.

The numbers tell a different story in JP. Graduate students make up over 60 percent 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.

There are various quirks in the census 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. The giant University of Massachusetts Boston does not report at all.

But some schools that are exempt voluntarily report anyway. They include MassArt, which is a state school, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which is in Cambridge.

The count is reported only by postal ZIP Codes, which do not exactly match neighborhoods. The JP count is based on the core 02130 ZIP Code. That leaves out most of Egleston Square and part of Woodbourne, among other areas.

Showa Boston Institute for Language and Culture, a residential semester-abroad branch of Showa Women’s University in Japan, has the only on-campus student housing officially in JP. But it has never filed a student population report, and it is unclear whether the University Accountability Ordinance applies to it. The City of Boston press office could not immediately clarify the situation.

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.