Following ELi’s report on Tuesday that Michigan State University will begin requiring first- and second-year students to live on campus, Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Mark Largent has provided more information about the specific impacts this change might have on the community.
One of the main points Largent made is that the increased number of students potentially living on campus is a “small number” compared to the approximately 50,000 students who attend the university. Largent told ELi that MSU expects roughly 2,000 additional sophomores living on campus.
“There’s an additional governor on all of this: at 100% capacity, MSU has 18,300 spots in its residence halls and apartments,” Largent wrote in an email. “If the sophomore mandate substantially increases the number of sophomores living on campus, some of the juniors and seniors may be displaced.”
He added that he doesn’t expect this to happen, because the University plans to work with Greek organizations and student housing co-ops to allow them to count as “on-campus” housing for sophomores. He also said he doesn’t expect that a significant number of juniors or seniors wanting to live on campus will be displaced by the changes.
MSU says the chief impetus for this policy change is that it will increase the rate that students “persist” past their sophomore year, meaning more will stay in school rather than dropping out.
“Students who choose to live on campus as sophomores have considerably higher persistence and graduation rates,” explained Largent.
“There is very little difference in the GPAs for the second year live-ons compared to the second year students who live off campus,” Largent continued. “But there are substantial differences in persistence and graduation rates. So this isn’t narrowly about the academics. It’s not the case that students with more academic aptitude choose to live on campus; if it was, we’d see a difference in their GPA’s. This is about the students’ living situations and how well they support students’ persistence and graduation.”
As for the economic impact this might have both on students and local businesses, Largent explained that, from MSU’s perspective, requiring sophomores to live on campus can be advantageous. Largent said students can likely pay less for housing if they live far enough off campus that they have to commute. But anyone trying to live within walking distance, he said, will likely pay the same or more than if they lived on campus.
“Furthermore,” Largent wrote, “students who live off campus take on liabilities that students who live on campus don’t have. For example, if you have a problem with your roommate in an off-campus living situation, your landlord isn’t going to help you resolve that or move you to a different apartment. But the university certainly does help with roommate challenges and does arrange for students to change rooms or roommates when there are conflicts between roommates.”
Students living on or off campus also have access to meal plans, and Largent is not worried that the changes to the housing requirements will draw business away from the bars, restaurants, fast-food shops, and groceries of East Lansing.
“Whether a student lives on or off campus, however, they have demonstrated that they are consumers in the local economy. Having access to food in the university cafés doesn’t mean that they would stop going to local businesses,” Largent wrote.
“I also think it’s important to point out that there’s a very powerful and positive relationship between the university’s efforts to improve the persistence of its students and to improve graduation rates on the one hand and the local communities’ social and economic health on the other hand,” Largent continued. “More students persisting longer and graduating more frequently will lead to an improved environment both on and off campus.”
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