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A fundamental change is in the works within SRU’s residence halls. Are they making the walls thicker? Are they finding more desk attendants? Are they permanently banishing mice and bats? No. The change extends far beyond that.
The press release
On Aug. 9, Chief Student Affairs Officer David Wilmes sent an email to SRU stakeholders about the new requirement of freshmen and sophomores to live in university housing and purchase a meal plan, starting with the incoming fall 2023 first-year students. Current SRU students are exempt from this requirement.
The university is implementing this new requirement in hopes that it will provide a richer experience and better outcomes for students, Wilmes said in the email. He said research has shown that living on campus makes students more productive and provides a more rewarding experience than those who live off campus.
Wilmes pointed out that other universities have been doing this same thing. It has allegedly resulted in increased retention rates, improved grades among students and increased campus involvement.
The email said depending on the headcount of new freshmen and sophomores, there will be a limited amount of on-campus housing rooms for upperclassmen.
There are exceptions for this requirement, which includes students who reside with a parent or legal guardian within a 60-mile commuting distance, part-time students, married students or students with dependent children in their custody and students with certain physical or psychological circumstances incompatible with university housing.
Residence halls are already jam-packed
While this policy requires freshmen and sophomores to live on campus, there are students that have no other choice, like students who live over two hours away, or can’t afford an expensive off-campus apartment.
Although certainly less likely for upperclassmen, it is still fairly common for juniors and seniors to live in North Hall, Rhoads Hall, the residence halls and the ROCK Apartments. Some people live on-campus for all four years of their undergraduate degree, and that is perfectly fine. But with these new changes, that may not be an option.
An influx of students could lead to extensive safety hazards. Fire hazards, overpopulation and an increase in rodents are only a few possibilities. No one wants to chase another bat out of a residence hall lobby.
Parking issues will skyrocket
It’s fair to say that most college campuses have parking issues. Some may even say it’s expected. But discussions about parking issues at SRU are too plentiful to be ignored.
Pushing upperclassmen out of the residence halls will increase the number of commuters. Because freshmen are allowed to have cars on campus, requiring freshmen and sophomores to live on campus will increase the number of resident cars. Despite the argument that there are enough parking spaces for all students and staff, it sure doesn’t seem that way.
The Rocket has reported on the parking issue time and time again, dating back to 2017. Recently, the staff has taken many different angles on the subject, like how the there were more permits sold in 2021 than the number of parking spots available (published in 2021) and how North and Rhoads Hall residence feel unsafe walking long distances back to their dorm from various parking lots across campus (published 2020).
Unfortunately, these issues have not subsided, but rather worsened. And they will be even further exacerbated by this new requirement.
Potential increase in off-campus apartment prices
With sophomores living on campus, there will be fewer students that live in off-campus housing. To accommodate these losses, the off-campus apartments may have to increase their already expensive monthly rent.
There is typically a natural increase in monthly rent as years go by, but this new requirement may accelerate the process.
“Eh, maybe I’ll just go to IUP.”
This policy could deter first-year students from even attending SRU in the first place. Students who want to live off campus during their sophomore year, for example, may choose a different school. Students who can’t afford to live off campus during junior or senior years may gravitate somewhere else.
For an example within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), West Chester University does not require students of any year to live on campus. West Chester also has the highest enrollment of all PASSHE universities.
SRU experienced a 3.8% decline in enrollment (nearly 7,800 students) during spring 2022 compared to the previous spring semester. For the same semester, West Chester had about 13,400 undergraduate students enrolled.
This may turn students away from SRU and toward a university with more flexible requirements.
What do we do now?
Well, there’s not much that current students can do. As for future SRU students, if their new plan goes horribly wrong, they may have to change it back.