College Housing Research Paper Starter

College Housing

(Research Starters)

Students attending college have options regarding housing facilities. Many will live on-campus and have their housing fee added to their tuition bill. Others, however, will choose to live in apartments or housing facilities off-campus, paying rent to a landlord rather than their colleges or universities. Living off campus is often less expensive than residing on campus, and there are corporations who build elaborate student residences in order to compete for housing dollars. However, the studies below will show that students who live on campus tend to be more connected with the colleges they attend. As such, they persist at higher rates, have better grades, and have stronger social networks than do students who live off campus.

Keywords: Community College; Non-traditional Student; Off-campus Housing; On-campus Housing; Outsourcing; Residence Hall; Resident Assistant (RA); Retention; Theory of Integration; Traditional Student


One of the biggest transitions for traditional college students is leaving the comfort of their family home to move into a residence hall with a group of strangers; one, two, or three with whom they will share close proximity for several months. As most of those new students will find out, there are advantages and disadvantages to living on campus. For example, living on campus offers the advantage of being close to classes, services, and the dining hall. Many freshmen are not allowed to have vehicles on campus during their first year, however, so making a trip to a Superstore to stock up on supplies can be difficult. Also, students who live in residence halls have to abide by the rules of the hall and are supervised by a resident assistant (RA) and resident hall director at all times. In contrast, students who live off-campus are not supervised and can come and go as they please. This is convenient and independent living, but off-campus students have to get to campus for class and to meet with faculty members and other students, so transportation is often required. Also, off-campus students have to budget their money in order to pay rent and utilities and have to buy food and gas. On-campus students pay for everything except transportation simply by paying their tuition, usually a twice-yearly bill.

For colleges and universities, offering on-campus housing has benefits and drawbacks as well. Residential housing brings a financial resource to a school. However, on-campus housing also puts a great deal of responsibility on that school; students who get injured or behave irresponsibly are the ultimate responsibility of the college — regardless of their age — when they live on campus. Over the past twenty years, colleges have been able to out-source that responsibility by allowing large corporations to build housing complexes right on their campuses. This option removes liability from the college and keeps students close to college resources. In effect, colleges lease land to corporations that receive rent from students (so the corporations make a profit) while those same students are considered residential because they live on-campus. Some of these corporations actually compete with colleges and universities for student housing dollars. Rather than seeking land on a campus, they purchase property close by, construct housing complexes, and offer apartment-style living, which ultimately takes housing dollars away from the college.

In Plattsburgh, New York, United Group developed and built College Suites, a 390-bed complex for Plattsburgh State students in the fall of 2009. The facility held two and four-bedroom apartments and "a fitness center, cafe/student lounge, game room and laundry facilities. Other amenities included cable television, wireless Internet service and all utilities" (LoTemplio, 2009, 6) for a price tag of around $8,000 per year. A walk of less than two minutes took students from the new apartment building to campus, which offered residence hall housing for $3,000-$4,000 less than the rent at College Suites. The residence halls at Plattsburgh State, however, are not as self-contained as the Suites, and students with cars who live on campus rarely get to park right outside their back door like they do down the street at College Suites. The convenience of independent living is worth the extra cost for some students, and colleges and universities now must consider how to compete with private housing options.

Further Insights

Off-Campus Living

Student Impact

Realistically, the most important issue to consider about housing options is whether or not students are more academically successful in one situation or the other. It may be that students care more about the facility they live in than their success in college. According to Macintyre (2003), "students have become more demanding about the quality of their accommodation and are looking for self-contained single-room apartments and access to a range of additional facilities such as computer points, laundries and gymnasiums" (p. 110). A more recent study also found that students increasingly are preferring suite-style residence halls that have private rooms to traditional residence halls. (Sickler & Roskos, 2013). As a result of student demand, colleges have started to create apartment-like housing — similar to that offered by College s — for students to live on-campus as independently as possible. Another way to meet student demand for independence is for colleges to lease land to large corporations (like the one that owns College Suites) to construct apartment/housing complexes on campus property. In this situation, students pay rent to the company (or building manager) that owns the building, but they are still considered on-campus residents who are close to classes, dining halls, and support offices.

When living situations are looked at from an academic perspective, however, students choosing the off-campus option may be doing so at their academic peril. Housing that offers no supervision and no interaction with faculty or other campus administrators often results in students in academic difficulty. Both recent and historic research shows that students are more successful — academically and socially — when they live on-campus rather than off-campus (Macintyre, 2003, Potts & Schultz, 2008; Moeck, Hardy, Katsinas & Leech, 2007, p. 328). This success includes having higher grades and completing more credits per semester than students who do not live in residence halls (Macintyre, 2003, p. 111). Vincent Tinto, professor of education at Syracuse University, developed his Theory of Integration based on the idea that students who live on campus develop a connection with faculty, academic support administrators, student organizations, and campus employment opportunities which help them integrate into the campus community. This integration helps them persist in a way that off-campus students do not (Potts & Schultz, 2008).

Community Impact

Another consideration of student living is the effects that housing situations have on the community surrounding the campus. Many campuses are set up so that students can survive without having to leave during the semester. Laundry facilities, dining halls, and convenience stores tend to populate campuses that offer residential living. Still, most students need jobs or want to eat out or attend movies or clubs. Since not all college towns have public transportation, many students have their own vehicles (and maintain them) or pay for cabs to get where they want. As a result, communities thrive, and in some instances, rely on college students to stimulate the economy eight months out of the year.

According to Macintyre (2003), however, communities that house colleges and universities can experience economic disadvantages as well:

Firstly, the pressure of many students seeking accommodation [off-campus housing] has had the effect of driving up the property values of some communities to the point where some housing has been put beyond the reach of the local inhabitants. Secondly, as the universities have acted to relieve the pressure and have directly acquired property, the proportion of land excluded from residential taxes has increased and the local authorities have ultimately been left with less money to support the local community (p. 112).

Thus, a catch-22 exists: businesses need the financial stimulus of college student spending, yet the increase in property value makes the economic benefit difficult to appreciate.

In addition to this, communities suffer other negative consequences from the existence of colleges as well. Noise and destruction of property tend to be the most common. For example, residents in Plattsburgh "have for years complained about problems caused by drunken students who urinate on public property, scream during the middle of the night while stumbling home from downtown, destroy property and even enter residences, sometimes vomiting inside and passing out" (Bartlett, 2007, Law Changes). While these behaviors cannot be attributed to students who live on-campus or off-campus specifically, they do make tolerating college students as a whole difficult for community members. This is especially so when property values increase and that property is then damaged by temporary inhabitants who are not invested in the community as a whole.

Academic Honesty On

According to the Department of Education, almost all public universities offered some kind of distance learning opportunity...

(The entire section is 4200 words.)