The life of a first-year college student will look a little different at the University of New Mexico next year.
Beginning in Fall 2018, traditional first-year students at UNM will be required to live on campus, unless they qualify for an exception. With many incoming freshmen making their decisions on college, now may be an ideal time to clear up any misconceptions.
The policy was finalized in September after a 5-to-2 Board of Regents vote.
According to , students can be exempt from the new policies if the:
“1. Student will be living with a parent, guardian or family member within 30 miles of main campus.
2. Student will be at least 20 years of age when the academic year begins.
3. Student (is) domestically partnered, married or have legally dependent children.
4. Student has a medical or accessibility circumstance and have applied and been approved for live-in exception through UNM’s Accessibility Resource Center.
5. Student who can demonstrate that living on campus would present an undue hardship on their ability to attend the University.”
The announcement of the policy was met with criticism.
However, Matt Hulett, the director of Admissions and Recruitment, said he hopes to ease the concerns of prospective students and their families.
“The Freshman Residency Requirement is not a one-size-fits-all policy, and we are working hard to make prospective students aware of who may be included in the requirement, the benefits, as well as exemptions,” Hulett said. “We believe those options should help offset concerns for students that would rise to the level of impacting enrollment decisions.”
He said the plan is “part of the work being done to continually improve outcomes for students...Both national and our own research has demonstrated that freshmen who live on campus their first year earn better grades, persist at higher rates and generally enjoy the college experience more than students who do not live on campus.”
Still, national research appears to be divided on the topic.
A 2010 study by James Murray of the University of Wisconsin revealed a significant GPA boost for those who lived, or had lived, on campus for any length of time during their undergraduate studies. It claimed to fix the error committed by previous studies by accounting for the “endogeneity problem,” which involves previous conditions or personality attributes that factor into a student’s decision to live on-campus.
A 2016 study by Polly A. Graham, Sarah S. Hurtado, & Robert M. Gonyea of Indiana University Bloomington, uses similar methodology but comes to different conclusions.
The study examines the issue beyond the indicator of GPA to include other positive outcomes, such as “perceived co-curricular gains.”
Similar to Murray’s study, Graham, Hurtado and Gonyea attempt to control the relationship between preexisting determinants of living choice and student success.
The study finds only a very small fraction of positive outcomes can be linked to on-campus residence versus living within walking distance.
Despite the conflicting national findings on the topic, UNM remains confident in the decision to implement the policy.
Former UNM President Robert Frank requested that UNM’s Institutional Support Services and Enrollment Management offices conduct a study to reveal the benefits of on-campus housing.
The UNM Newsroom reported several significant findings, including a 10 percent increase in retention rates between students living on campus and those living elsewhere, as well as a higher degree completion rate, higher perceptions of safety and a high satisfaction rate among current residents.
“UNM’s on-campus options match, or are below, market for comparable spaces and amenities,” Hulett said. “The broad selection of traditional, single-occupancy and apartment-style housing options are a good fit for traditional first-time freshmen. And the important benefits of being in the midst of campus, supportive community in the residence halls, access to resources and more, makes living on campus a very good deal.”
Gabriella Rivera is a news reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter as @gabbychlamps.