Housing upgrades may attract more to campus living

When Vanessa Phillips decided to enroll in summer school, she had to make some adjustments.

She had to make new friends. She had to prepare for more challenging college courses. And, when she moved from Wichita to Lawrence, she had to find a new place to live. So she began apartment hunting.

Phillips, who will begin her freshman year at Kansas University this fall, says none of the apartments she looked at felt like part of the university. She finally decided to live in a residence hall to feel connected to the campus.

“The dorm seems like a better place to become involved in the school,” she said. “I was looking forward to the college experience and meeting new people. There is a lot more opportunity to do that in the dorms.”

Phillips’ situation isn’t a unique one. Diana Robertson, director of student housing, says about 75 percent of incoming freshmen live on campus each year, though the exact percentage isn’t available until about three weeks into the semester. While making the transition to campus housing could mean sharing a bathroom with a dozen other students, less personal space and the potential for an incompatible roommate, Robertson believes the benefits outweigh the risks.

Studies show that students who live in residence halls have a higher grade-point average, and they stay in school and graduate at a higher rate than students who live off-campus, she says.

“From an academic and retention standpoint, as well as a safety and security standpoint, it’s a smart choice,” Robertson said.

Housing upgrades

After being closed for renovations the past year, Tower A of the Jayhawker Towers is slated to reopen in August. The new building will feature enhanced lighting fixtures, remodeled bathrooms and kitchens, new plumbing and electrical systems, and wireless Internet capabilities.

“We completely gutted the building out,” Robertson said. “Everything was removed down to the brick walls.

This year, Tower D will be closed for similar renovations. Robertson doesn’t anticipate a shortage of rooms for students because she says housing administration has prepared for the closing by offering fewer single rooms.

Other changes

After the alcohol-related deaths of two students on campus last year, the university has re-evaluated its campuswide alcohol policy.

The new policy guarantees amnesty for students who seek medical help in alcohol-related emergencies. It also allows for the university to notify the parents of a student caught violating the alcohol policy on campus.

Robertson said the new policy is a necessary step in ensuring the safety of students on campus, and she doesn’t believe it will negatively affect the number of students who apply to live in the residence halls.

Save some green

Cameron Jones has a simple reason for choosing to live in the residence halls while taking summer classes and next fall as he enters KU as a freshman.

“It’s cheaper,” he said, noting the added convenience of not needing to worry about monthly water, electric, cable and other bills. “If you can find a nice place to live that’s cheaper than renting an apartment, than I think everyone should do that. And it’s easier on your parents.”

Not only are people more economically conscious, but more environmentally conscious, Robertson said. She says that’s another reason why students may choose to live on campus.

“Economies of scale make it a greener choice,” said Robertson. “I really do think by living on campus you can reduce your carbon footprint.”

Another option

Naismith Hall offers students who want to live in private housing an option to also be on campus. Though Naismith isn’t owned by KU, it is near campus and houses many freshman students.

Because students sign a lease with the hall instead of with the university, they have a little more freedom, says Jonathan Bove, director of residence life for Campus Advantage, which manages Naismith Hall.

However, he said because of its property style, Naismith is more similar to university residence halls than other private housing complexes.

“We want our students to be better off for having lived at our properties,” Bove said. “Our focus is to provide them with the same resources that are on campus.”