A new study commissioned by the National Multifamily Housing Council (NMHC) and conducted by InnesWorks Consulting provides insight into how living off campus can affect college students’ academic performance and school loyalty.
“The study was done in the face of claims of universities that students are better off living on campus,” says Jim Arbury, NMHC vice president of student housing topics and programs. “It was the opposite that came out of the study.”
After conducting 18 focus groups involving 165 sophomores, juniors and seniors at four universities-Arizona State University in Tempe, University of Texas in Austin, University of Florida in Gainesville, and University of Missouri in Columbia-the research found that living off campus had very little or no negative effect on students’ academics or school engagement.
“In general, the response was that they felt just as connected,” says Arbury. “Whether they lived on campus or off campus didn’t have an impact on their enthusiasm or tie to the school.”
The researchers looked at four key measures: academic engagement, including class attendance and GPA; persistence (i.e., the likelihood of graduating); involvement and social engagement with the university; and maturation (i.e., personal and social development).
They found that the students’ class year affected those four key measures the most. The focus group discussions revealed that participants felt that if upper-class students would have remained living on campus after their freshmen year, their academic performance and university engagement would have been similar to that of when they lived off campus.
Regardless of where they live, the patterns show that students know the lay of the land more their sophomore year and start to hone in on the activities and studies they want to pursue. Juniors and seniors, on the other hand, are more serious about studying, building relationships with their professors and focusing on post-graduation opportunities.
However, the research also showed that living off campus required students to factor in transportation to and from campus into their schedules. As a result, students were more likely to skip large lectures and classes not related to their fields of study.
“One thing was students would arrange their classes so they didn’t have to go back and forth from where they lived,” Arbury says. “Depending on how far their classroom was from their apartment, there was an increase in absenteeism from class if they hadn’t scheduled their class times right.”
Complete findings from the “Impact of Off-Campus Housing on Student Academic Performance and School Loyalty” report will be released at the 2014 NMHC Student Housing Conference and Exposition, which will be held Sept. 30-Oct. 2 at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago.
For more details on the report, please contact Brian Veith at email@example.com.
Article by Christine Serlin for the National Multifamily Housing Council.