Many who are in favor of a two-year program that would require freshmen and sophomores to live in residence halls cite benefits to the campus-living experience.
Still pending Board of Trustees approval, President E. Gordon Gee is strongly advocating this change.
“This is about creating an environment in which campus is your home,” Gee told The Lantern at a Feb. 6 editorial board meeting.
Data provided by the Office of Student Life suggests the plan would have academic benefits and increase second-year retention rates.
Ohio State students who came to the university in 2008 and lived in residence halls for two years had a 92 percent second-year retention rate, while 80.4 percent of those who moved off campus after one year enrolled for a second year, according to Student Life.
“The evidence is so dramatically clear,” Gee said. “It will improve the quality of life, it will improve the graduation rates … the intellectual environment will improve.”
Nick Messenger, Undergraduate Student Government president, said the benefits of the two-year live-on plan are “gigantic.” He said residence life gives students an instant sense of belonging, a feeling that is especially important for first-year students.
“It gives first-year students … an avenue to jump in and make connections with people in their floor,” he said.
The first-year experience is all about connecting students to the university, Messenger said, while the second-year experience in residence halls allows students to focus on a more specific part of the university.
Sophomores living on campus could receive opportunities to explore areas of the university that are more geared toward their interests and area of study, he said.
Nickole Watson, a second-year in Spanish and president of her hall council, said returning to the residence halls for a second year affected her.
“I came in kind of like the quiet, shy girl who didn’t want to talk to anyone, but then I took like a (180-degree) flip,” Watson said. “I’m a totally different person now.”
Watson grew up in a small town and said living in the residence halls has exposed her to a new spectrum of ethnicities and lifestyles.
“It’s really eye-opening to come from such a closed background to now knowing so much more just about the world in general,” she said.
Besides background, Watson said she has learned that diversity encompasses all kinds of aspects of life.
“A lot of people don’t understand that diversity is not just ethnicity and race,” she said. “It’s also interests and styles of clothing.”
Katie Wagner, a resident adviser in Smith Hall, said living with roommates is a crash course on diversity and cooperation.
“When you have a roommate, it’s working with someone new and compromising, learning how to live with someone,” Wagner said.
Wagner said living on campus can also offer students many opportunities that they might not receive if they lived off campus.
The 2010 National Survey for Student Engagement found 82 percent of students who live on campus participate in campus activities, while only 64 percent of students who live off-campus participate.
Similarly, the study found those who live on campus are more likely to participate in student organizations than those who live off campus.
As an RA, Wagner said she advertises events around campus and in the building, like a Super Bowl party she planned in February.
“So many people who move off campus do lose that school spirit,” Wagner said. “(OSU) has so many opportunities that they offer … When you live in a residence hall, you will hear about it more often.”
Despite the advantages, Messenger recognizes that on-campus living is generally more expensive for most students. Messenger said it is important to solve the issue of affordability before the two-year live-on requirement is enacted.
The tentative semester-housing rates published by university residences and dining services range from $3,021 to $3,848, with an average of about $3,500 per semester.
Cost of dining plans are also tentative, and range from $1,850 to $2,650, with an average of about $2,300 per semester.
“We have to be financially realistic but also find creative ways to make on-campus living more affordable,” Messenger said. “I don’t think the affordability factor should be a no-go factor for the whole thing,” he said.
Affordability was an important factor for Nick White, a second-year in civil engineering, when he decided to move off campus after his first year.
White said that for many students, living on campus a second year is just not financially feasible.
The 2011-2012 Off Campus Student Services housing guide asked students renting from 19 different realtors to estimate their rent each month.
Students reported an average monthly rent of $301-400 for 12 out of the 19 realtors. Some had separate utilities while others included them in the cost of rent.
According to this estimate, rent for one semester, approximately four months, would be between $1,200-$1,600.
White admitted that he may have studied a little more while living in the residence halls but said learning to live on your own and be independent is an important lesson in college.
Offering residence halls with lighter amenities would be one way to reduce cost, Messenger said. He said there is a student population that would be willing to forgo extras, like cable, to make living costs cheaper.
But Gee said students aren’t just paying for amenities. They are also paying for a full collegiate experience.
“We are one of the most cost-effective universities in the country, both in terms of housing and in terms of cost of tuition and the quality of the educational experience,” Gee said.