Although other universities in the state and region are reporting a shortage in on-campus housing, Kansas University officials said earlier this week that KU residence halls were at 93 percent of capacity, about the same as last year.
As an aside, they added that KU’s scholarship halls already were completely full.
That circumstance speaks well for the popularity of a housing community that had its beginnings at KU in the 1920s and has seen a resurgence in recent years. KU is one of the few public universities in the country with a cooperative living system like the scholarship halls, where residents share cooking and cleaning duties in exchange for reduced housing costs.
Miller and Watkins were the original scholarship halls. The system grew slowly and then stabilized at eight halls — four for men and four for women — for several decades. Since 1992, however, four new halls have been built, thanks to generous donations from former scholarship hall residents who wanted to provide that same living experience to more students at KU.
The lower cost and central location of the halls are obvious attractions, but the halls offer other advantages. Each hall houses about 50 students, creating an instant community for the students who live and work together. It’s an especially good situation for freshmen who have upperclassmen at their disposal to answer questions and show them the ropes. The 12 scholarship halls constitute a broader social community for residents.
Scholarship hall residents don’t have to earn academic scholarships at KU, but they must complete at least 28 credit hours each year and maintain at least a 2.5 grade-point average. According to the KU housing department, students who live in any on-campus housing get better grades and are more likely to graduate in four years. That’s even more true in the scholarship halls, where students have an overall 3.3 grade-point average, according to this year’s housing brochure.
It seems clear that the KU scholarship halls are on to something. They offer a living arrangement that costs less, is popular with students and encourages academic success. That’s a winning combination that KU should preserve in the scholarship halls and try to emulate in other on-campus housing facilities.