The Rise of Remote Work May Reshape College Towns. Here’s How These Campuses Are Wooing Transplants.

Lindsey Ellis:

Universities are luring remote staff at corporations to move from urban hubs to college towns, as companies look to continue flexible work arrangements for their employees.

At least two colleges — Purdue University and West Virginia University — are supporting programs for these remote workers, betting that this mode of work will have staying power after the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the shift to scattered workplaces.

Universities have long hosted corporate incubators, but the new programs represent another way the pandemic has shifted the way colleges think about who works on campus, and why. Many universities are considering how employees’ desires for remote work will affect their own human-resources policies. These colleges, however, are making a play for other people’s employees, showing that campuses will both influence and be affected by this major shift in where Americans live and work.

Purdue is set to hold a visitors’ weekend for a small group of applicants for a so-called “remote-working community” in the campus’s business-and-research park, which is operated by the university’s research foundation and a development company. These people will uproot their lives — some with a deal-sweetening $5,000 — to move to West Lafayette, Ind. They can live at discounted rates in housing built in the Purdue park and access campus facilities, including the library and a co-working space.