Living on campus, or at least paying to live on campus, will be required for sophomore students as well as freshman beginning next year.
Currently, it is required for traditional freshman students to live in the residence halls for their first year.
Although many return to the dorms, a portion of upperclassmen move off-campus in their preceding years of school.
Starting fall 2017, all freshmen and sophomore students will be charged with a housing payment even if they sign an off-campus lease.
This is because there are not enough students enrolled in the university to fill all the halls without having an enforced requirement.
Brian Faust, director of Residential Living, said he is worried about the department having enough money with fewer students because this branch of the school is financially separate from the rest of the university.
“This is the first year we are enforcing this because enrollment has dropped. Before, we were always able to fill our halls with traditional freshman and enough voluntary returners,” said Faust. “With enrollment dropping the number of students to fill our halls is not there any longer.”
UW-Madison has the opposite problem. There is not enough housing for all their students so they do not require freshman or any student to live on campus and the numbers balance out.
“The UW-system professors and the whole academic side receive taxpayer money to pay their bills. In housing we are considered in auxiliary, meaning we get no money from anybody else,” Faust said. “Whatever money we have to spend is from the students that live in the halls.”
This is not a standard for public universities nationally. Each state’s university system board of regents makes decisions regarding university housing. Freshmen and sophomore students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point are already required to live on campus, but the rule has not been enforced.
“It’s a Wisconsin thing. Before here, I worked as a director in Kansas and all the money was part of one big pot where I made money and academics made money and it was used as needed. Here the pot is all just what I make,” said Faust.
Even though the administration would like everyone to be free to make their own choices for their living, there are bills that have to be paid.
“I need to have money to pay my bills and you look at how we reinvented eight halls and built a new one,” said Faust. “I have to pay the bank back every year so if my halls aren’t full I don’t have the money to pay that back which gets me and my department in trouble. So we are enforcing this requirement.”
Fritz Fritz, sophomore biology and psychology major, is currently living off-campus after being in the dorms last year.
“A lot of students find it way more affordable to live off-campus,” Fritz said. “Not only because it is a cheaper price, but also you don’t have to pay a giant bill upfront, and instead in smaller increments.”
Fritz said the on-campus requirement, fortunately, isn’t installed yet because he is not sure how he could’ve afforded to stay on-campus had this been put in place for this year.
Another consequence of this policy is that it will decrease the number of students signing off-campus leases.
With enrollment down, the amount of students looking to live off campus is already dwindling. This will further affect the housing market next year.
When asked, many students believed the new requirement was an unfair side-effect for a lower enrollment which they did not cause.
Students also preferred that the Residential Living administration spends time making the facilities more appealing so students would want to stay in the halls without it being mandatory.
Faust said, “There is data that shows students that live on campus have a history of having a better GPA and academic survival. We are here to help you get to your goal.”
While Faust is correct about a connection nationally between GPA and where a student lives, there isn’t any proven causation to this correlation, especially at the UWSP.
Many students who choose to stay on campus may also be in better financial situations because it is normally more expensive.
It is possible that the theoretical correlation, between living on-campus and better academic performance that Faust speaks of, is an association between wealth and grades.
The majority of students who stay on campus are freshmen, mostly because freshmen are required to stay on-campus. This can lead to comparisons of academic performance between freshmen and upperclassmen, which can be unfair.
Fritz said, “Because of the financial burden it will put on students, this solution to the lower enrollment problem could make the situation worst by even fewer students being able to afford the total cost of school.”