October 2023
Megan Perry-Spears, St. Scholastica dean of students, high-fiving a new student
Megan Perry-Spears, St. Scholastica dean of students, high-fiving a new student

Seeing parents help move their first-year students into on-campus housing is a sign of the season. Living on campus is an important experience for many college students, with benefits that last a lifetime.

Building community is a key value at The College St. Scholastica, noted Megan Perry-Spears, dean of students.  And living on campus helps student learn “how to live in a community with others outside your family culture, and how to love your neighbors – all sorts of neighbors.”

Living on campus creates a sense of belonging and provides opportunities to build relationships and friendships and share experiences. Spending time in the lounge, over meals and just hanging out are incredibly important as students move into independent living and prepare for what comes next.

On-campus living also creates a sense of belonging and provides academic benefits, including better retention and higher graduation rates, Perry-Spears said. This might be because living on-campus lets students focus on academics and experience fewer distractions when they’re living in a college environment that supports their education.

“Generally students who live on campus are happy, engaged and love the sense of belonging to a community,” says Perry-Spears. “Family support is important, and parents really like their students on campus. It’s not inexpensive but most families recognize it’s worth it and a very valuable and worthwhile endeavor.”

Renee Tatge
Renee Tatge, Bethany Director of Residential Life and Intramural Sports

Similarly, Bethany Lutheran College recognizes the importance of helping new students feel connected and part of the community when they arrive on campus. Ninety percent of freshmen live on campus and exemptions are available for those who are from the nearby area.

“Living on campus provides a good chance for students to make connections, be close to campus resources, and makes it easier to see their professors during their office hours. All these things are harder to do if they’re not living here,” said Renee Tatge, director of residential life and intramural sports. “When students move off campus they don’t seem to be as connected to the community.”

“Some students never had roommates before sharing a space in college,” Tatge said. “Meeting new people and learning how to compromise are important life skills, and living on campus provides unique opportunities to meet new people and have new experiences.”

She also sees on-campus students enjoy greater success with higher GPAs and persisting through graduation. Although living on campus might not be the cause, Tatge believes it plays a part. Parents also like having their students on campus as it helps them make good decisions and is more convenient with less driving to and from campus.

At St. Olaf College 95 percent of students live on campus. College officials embrace the idea that Oles go to class and live together for a greater collegiate experience and a healthy transition upon graduation.

Christopher Medley
Christopher Medley, St. Olaf Associate Dean of Students for Residential Life and Student Conduct

According to Christopher Medley, associate dean of students for residential life and student conduct, living on campus is an opportunity for students to learn how to collaborate, live their values, and develop and practice these skills.

“The benefits of living on campus include building your network and community, understanding and connecting with the institution, and demonstrating your leadership skills,” Medley said. “Students also benefit from participation and engagement in student staff roles that help keep them connected and focused on graduating in four years.”

St. Olaf students enjoy campus life, Medley said, and while the college is in a city, it’s also a separate community on the hill. Residential hall amenities include grills and fire pits for community cookouts and recreational fires. Each hall also has a piano, helping students eager to play.

“Living on campus is a big component of adulting, and we have the resources to help and support students as they figure things out. They’re our students and we support them differently than their parents can,” adds Medley. “I challenge my team to be engaged and continually assess our connections with our students.”

By Tom Brandes