Ask the Professors: On-Campus versus Off-Campus Living

This week, we’ll hope to focus on the topic of on-campus living versus off-campus living—what works best for students? Does it depend on your university of choice, or could it even vary based on the needs or personality of each student?

Welcome to North American Van Lines’ first “Ask the Professors” column, where we ask professionals in the education field their thoughts on topics ranging from student moving, campus living, and much more.

This week, we’ll hope to focus on the topic of on-campus living versus off-campus living—what works best for students? Does it depend on your university of choice, or could it even vary based on the needs or personality of each student?

Our round of campus living questions revolved primarily around the following:

  • Have you experienced a difference in learning curve between students who live on campus, compared to those that live off campus? Has this learning curve affected your teaching curriculum or techniques?
  • In your opinion, which option offers higher potential learning benefits to students—living on, or off campus?

 

Those kind enough to take the time to talk with us this week include Kennesaw State University’s Director of Residence Life, Jeff Cooper, who has also served as an adjunct professor in their University College.

"Decades of research supports the idea that students who live in on-campus housing are more academically and socially engaged in the college environment,” Cooper explained. “Those who live on campus for even one year tend to earn better grades and graduate, not only more quickly, but also at higher rates than their peers who never live on campus.”

Beyond the numbers, Cooper offered insight into the hows and whys of higher marked performance among on-campus residents. “Because of the increased opportunity that on-campus housing provides for student engagement, housing and residence life programs have developed living-learning communities that bridge the in-class and out-of-class educational experience—in many instances bringing the classroom environment into the residence halls."

 

We also spoke with Lisa Wolf-Wendel of the University of Kansas, who has served as a Professor of Higher Education for over 20 years, including teaching in a graduate program that prepares students to work on college and university campuses in student support services—residence life, advising, admissions, and more.

“The research is clear.  For traditional aged (17-23), full time college students, living on campus leads to a host of positive measurable outcomes including increased likelihood of staying enrolled, graduating in a timely manner, better academic performance (GPA), better social outcomes (making friends, fitting in), increased learning, and greater satisfaction with college,” she said.

Wolf-Wendel explained that the benefits of on-campus living may extend beyond performance markers as well. “On-campus living also provides a relatively safe environment for students to practice the skills of being independent and learning how to take care of themselves in a supportive environment.   While it technically may cost more too live on-campus than off (although this is not always the case), the benefits accrued to those who live on campus far outweigh the expense,” she explained.

“The reasons for this can best be explained by research that shows that college students who are more involved in the co-curricular and extracurricular life of campus and who are academically engaged (both in class and out of class) do better in school than those whose energy is not invested towards the campus.”

                A deeper understanding as to why living on-campus correlates with better average academic performance is often considered subjective, however, Wolf-Wendel explained that this trend is more understood than many would think. “Living on campus provides easy access to campus facilities, to academic assistance, to extracurricular programming and activities, to social and academic support, to peers from different backgrounds, and to faculty and staff.  Campuses consider residence halls as extensions of the academic environment, and offer programming and activities to enhance in-class learning,” Wolf-Wendel said.

“Sometimes these are formal arrangements.  Living learning communities, for example, link students to two or more classes, provide peer mentors, and relevant academic programming within a residence hall setting.  Sometimes the benefits come from more informal arrangements within residence halls – accrued through proximity to campus and availability of campus resources that facilitates these positive outcomes.”

 

Finishing out this week’s round of questions is the Executive Director of the University of Tennessee’s Student Success Center, Dr. Anton Reece, Ph.D.

Reece explained that engagement plays a critical role in academic success, with students suffering tight schedules and long commutes generally receiving the short end of the stick.

“In order for students to successfully transition to college life and maximize the unique opportunities in college life, they need to be engaged both academically and socially. Students who commute are often engaged for a limited time in the classroom and miss opportunities to connect with their professors during office hours, and to connect with students in clubs and organizations,” Dr. Reece explained.

“As a result they can become isolated and not make critical contacts with support networks in place. In addition, some commuters often remain at home to work 20 or more hours a week, which also has an impact on their dedicated study times.”

This week’s verdict appears to be a strong one—our professors feel that the pros of living on-campus outweigh the cons, especially when it comes to academic performance (and really, what’s more important than that?)

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