American Campus Communities (ACC) is the only pure-play real estate investment trust (REIT) that focuses on student housing. And you might be surprised at what a massive growth opportunity there is in the student housing industry. In this Fool Live video clip, recorded on Nov. 16, Motley contributor Matt DiLallo and editors Deidre Woollard and Kayla Schorr discuss American Campus Communities and why it might be worth a closer look now.

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Deidre Woollard: American Campus, a lot of people were very worried when all of the universities shut down. There was this concern that American Campus was going to be in trouble, but they have bounced back. Third quarter earnings were strong and they achieved 95.8% fall opening occupancy, so really seeing a major bounce back. They're still running at a loss, I believe, but they increased their FFOM [modified funds from operations] per fully diluted share by 25% year over year. They grew their same store net operating income by about 10.5%, so it seems like all of the trends that American Campus saw ahead of the pandemic, it was a pause versus it being a destruction of their thesis in general.

Matt DiLallo: This was one of the ones that really surprised me because we had no students, and yet they still stayed a lot of them in these off-campus housing. Even last year, they would go to these off campus housing and do their classes online because they just wanted that college experience. I don't think anybody saw that coming just how resilient this business would be.

Kayla Schorr: First, I think maybe we should go back to sharing the slides because I know we had some key info in here. I am happy to share my screen.

Woollard: I can do it.

Schorr: But also, what I was going to say was a lot of college students dorms notified students and said, "Were only doing singles." or "You have to wear a mask in every single communal area of a dorm." and there were just a lot of restrictions in place. Places like American Campus Community lodging options were very attractive to students because they had more freedom and didn't have to live in a dorm during a pandemic.

DiLallo: Then the demographics, that's what's really driving them now. They're in really great markets with colleges that are attracting a lot of students. The supply is becoming an issue in a lot of these markets. They are just able to pre-sell a lot of their housing because there just isn't the room for these students. They are the right places at the right time to benefit from this real boom of students that are going to these major universities throughout their markets.

Woollard: But I think one of the things I believe you and I have talked about before with American Campus is also the idea that universities don't necessarily want to be in the housing business and certainly not in the building housing business because it's expensive, it's time consuming, that's not their core business. They don't necessarily want to be involved in that, especially if they don't already own the land, this really solves a need.

I think there is an overall perception shift in going to college because it used to be most campuses would make you live on campus for at least freshman year, usually freshman, sophomore before they would let you live off campus. Now, I think partly because of just the way people communicate now and so much more is online, I think there's less of a command that students need to be on campus to have the "College experience."

Schorr: Sorry, go ahead Matt.

DiLallo: I was just going to say, we're not even talking about far off campus because a lot of American Campus, its properties are within walking distance a lot of times or they typically will have really good shuttle systems or stuff like that, so you're very connected. It's not like you're living 10 miles off campus, you're pretty close.

Schorr: I was going to say it's interesting to actually look at what these properties look like. My university where I attended did not have specific American Campus Communities buildings, but they were very much modeled very similarly to them. They're really designed for students, so they have like study rooms, different amenities that college students would use. Many of them come furnished. While they are apartment buildings, they're very, very nuanced in the sense of they are designed for students.

Another interesting thing about them, I was researching American Campus Communities recently and many of them are in cities. They're offering a very competitive option to students who are attending college in urban area where the alternative is these extremely expensive urban apartments with fewer amenities. It is a very attractive company.

DiLallo: I know. Anytime I've looked at their buildings, I get jealous because when I went to school, the campus, my mom called it a trailer park. That's what the dorms looked like and felt like. This is not what that is. You mentioned amenities and just the things that students have these days is really nice. It's not like I went to college that long ago.