Students opt to live closer to campus

A “U” official said students who live near campus are more involved in the community and graduate sooner.

Jake Weyer

Before first-year student Kevin Kumlin moved into Territorial Hall, he considered commuting from his home in Lino Lakes, Minn.

Though living at home would have been cheaper, the computer science student ultimately decided to say goodbye to his mother’s cooking and the luxury of his own shower and pay about $3,000 to eat and live in a residence hall each semester.

Living on or near campus rather than commuting is becoming more appealing to

students, University officials said. According to the University’s student interest survey conducted every five years, the proportion of undergraduates who call themselves commuters dropped from 58 percent in 1981 to 42 percent in 2001.

While many students continue to drive or take the bus to the University, students are moving closer to campus largely for convenience and a sense of belonging.

“It’s easier access to campus if you live here,” Kumlin said. “It’s a 20-minute walk, instead of a half-hour drive and then a 20-minute walk.”

Kumlin also said he enjoys being able to return to his dormitory room between

classes.

Chris Larson, an electrical engineering sophomore who drives or carpools from his home in East St. Paul each day, said he purposely scheduled some of his classes about an hour apart so he could use that time to study.

“If I go home, I don’t study,” he said. Larson said he knows all the study rooms because he is a commuter.

It takes Larson about 10 minutes to drive to campus and another 10 or 15 minutes to bike or in-line skate to class after parking his car.

He said he commutes because it is cheaper than living on campus, but he is considering moving into a residence hall next year.

“Everybody I meet either has been in the dorms or is in the dorms,” he said. “That’s kind of my motivation for moving out, because everybody’s here.”

Craig Swan, vice provost for undergraduate education, said students are moving on or near campus for a number of reasons, including the campus’s physical attractiveness, an improved learning environment and the University’s investment in undergraduate programs.

Swan said more students living on or near campus can benefit the University by strengthening student organizations, increasing the potential for retail outlets near campus and making the University a safer place.

“It makes it seem more like what you think a campus ought to be,” he said.

Swan also said living far away from campus could prevent students from graduating in four years if they do not spend enough time at the University.

Having more students on or near campus can also mean riots, excessive drinking and out-of-control parties, Swan said.

The University has renovated and expanded campus housing to accommodate the growing number of students living on campus.

Mannix Clark, Housing and Residential Life associate director, said the University has added about 1,500 dormitory beds since 1996. Housing close to campus is also growing. More than 3,000 beds have been added within walking distance of the University since 1999 in apartment complexes such as The Melrose Apartments and Jefferson Commons, Clark said.

For those who drive to the University, parking costs near campus can range from $3.25 per day in a lot to $110 per month for a 24-hour garage contract, according to the Parking and Transportation Services Web site.

Regal Johnson, a political science sophomore who commutes from Circle Pines, Minn., said parking is too expensive and is inconvenient for commuters who want to attend educational or cultural events during the evening. Johnson plans to move on campus next year.

“I don’t particularly like (living off campus),” he said. “It was due to a shortage of housing here at the ‘U.’ “

The Commuter Connection student group provides commuter students with a sense of community, said Sam Ero-Phillips, Commuter Connection president.

The student group takes part in University events, including the homecoming parade, and plans its own events such as bowling and playing pool in Coffman Union.

“I feel really involved on campus,” Ero-Phillips said. “When I was a freshman, I felt a disconnection with campus life.”