I’ve had kids live on campus, and I’ve had them live off-campus as freshmen.
I’ll take on-campus, thank you very much.
K-State is making the right move by requiring freshmen to live on campus, starting with the school year that begins about a year from now. I’m 100 percent on board.
K-State announced that policy change recently, putting it at odds with KU but in line with the rest of the universities in the state.
Part of the reason K-State is doing this now is because it can. It built a new dorm, and of course enrollment has dropped, so there’s room to cram all the freshmen in. But the bigger reason is that students generally do better if they live on campus that first year — meaning they stick around for the next year, and they do better in class. Getting kids to stick from the first year to the second is a really big deal.
Makes logical sense. If you’re on-campus, that means you’re living in a dorm. You are surrounded by your fellow students, and you’ve got some structure. There are authority figures of some sort — the person at the front desk, the advisors, the hall monitors or whatever they’re called. The point is, you know that somebody is paying at least a little bit of attention to what you’re doing. And you’re surrounded by people whose priorities are, well, going to college.
Off-campus, that might or might not be true.
For freshmen males, one major option is a fraternity. The data indicates that retention among the Greeks is higher than retention of the general student population, and that also makes some sense. People in fraternities are probably joiners by nature, and therefore likely to be involved on campus, and they’re surrounded by other college students. There might also be some structure, what with a house mom and some peer pressure from house leaders. That might also not be the case — some of those frat houses are Lord-of-The-Flies operations. Just depends on the leadership of the house. Tip to Mom and Dad: Although your 18-year-old man-child seems like he’s ready for independence, he’ll be one helluva lot better off in the long run if that frat house has a house mom and some real structure and a track record of involvement and success.
Living off-campus in a rental house is not in and of itself a disaster. The problem is that during a college kid’s first year — the first year away from home, away from the watchful eye of mom and dad — the lack of structure is liable to lead to disaster. Bad habits lead to bad outcomes.
Once you’ve been through a year or two with the structure of a dorm, you’re much more likely to have better habits that will sustain you in a less-structured environment.
This will surely eat into the demand for off-campus housing, and that probably makes this column unpopular with the landlords. But I would contend that better retention means better enrollment numbers, and that rising tide will float all boats. Might take awhile, though.
Let’s not forget that turning around the enrollment slide at K-State is still probably the biggest issue in town.