Living on campus is not a requirement for freshmen at UT; it’s a choice, and quite a big one.
Whether choosing to live on or off campus, there can be impacts on a student’s social life and their academic performance. But the choice of living situations is not entirely the student’s, it’s the University’s. As the number of admitted freshmen increases, living in dorms becomes less of an option due to everybody fighting for the same spot.
Last fall, UT admitted its largest incoming freshmen class. Welcoming more than 8,500 students, this was an increase of nearly 1,000 students from the previous year. And with such a large incoming class came the question of where the University would fit all of the students, given that the residence halls fill up each year and West Campus is filled to the brim with occupied apartment complexes.
Large numbers of freshmen coming from outside of Austin — some even coming from outside of the state or country — shouldn’t have to question where they’re going to live when they arrive. Instead, UT should be able to provide housing accommodations for all the freshmen who want to live on campus, not just those who apply early enough or are lucky enough to get in. Students are encouraged to apply for housing as soon as they finish applying to UT, and putting down a $50 housing deposit before they even know if they’ve been accepted.
Living on campus freshman year benefits students by improving academic success and a higher graduation rate. Studies show that students who live on campus during their freshman year get higher grades than those who don’t, and are twice as likely to make the Dean’s List. Students who live on campus for their first two years are 25 percent more likely to graduate.
Residence halls are also more secure than living off campus. Most apartment complexes only require keys to access, unless you have the money to pay for something more expensive, and require students to walk between apartment buildings at night. Residence halls require people to swipe in with their UT IDs after hours and require a key to access rooms. They also feature RAs who monitor the building. Dorms are also located on a campus dotted with blue-light security phones and are patrolled by UTPD.
Moreover, a freshman’s social life also improves when living residence halls. Campus living allows easy access to their academic peers, giving students an easier transition from home to college. Living off campus makes it harder for students to make friends, especially when students who live off campus have to go back to campus for critical social activities.
Residence halls are safer and more convenient than off campus apartment complexes, and push students towards academic success. All of these benefits to living on campus would give UT better assurance of remaining high in college rankings and producing more successful graduates, should UT try to get as many freshmen to live on campus as possible. As class sizes increase, so should the number of dorms on campus. While there’s limited space on campus as is — and this would require investing in a large construction project — introducing as many new dorms as possible should be a top priority for UT.
Berdanier is a philosophy senior from Boulder, Colorado. She is a senior columnist. Follow her on Twitter @eberdanier.