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To move or not to move? That is the question...

Elon students weigh the benefits of on- vs. off-campus housing

by The Pendulum,

For Elon University students, this time of year marks a period when everyone has the same thought on their minds: Where am I going to live next year? For some, Elon's two-year on- campus housing requirement makes the decision boil down to GPA and semesters spent on campus. For others, such as Elon's rising juniors and seniors, the choice to remain on campus can become much more complicated, as the large assortment of cheaper, off- campus housing options can be hard to ignore.

But with such extravagant new on-campus housing options springing up, such as the new junior/senior complex, The Station at Mill Point, the university apparently has a clear goal in mind. It seems that keeping Elon's upperclassmen currently living on campus from leaving for those cheaper off-campus apartment complexes has become a new priority for Residence Life.

But will this year's new housing policies bring about the desired effect?

In a recent email from Residence Life, students were informed that all rising juniors and seniors will not be given the option of returning to their current housing assignment next year. This new policy effectively limits upperclassmen students' on-campus options to the space available in the Oaks, Colonnades or the Station at Mill Point. But at this point in the year, when students usually have already committed to living arrangements for the future, the likelihood that the affected students will choose to remain on campus with this new housing policy is low. And with on-campus registration a little more than a month away, the lack of available information concerning who is eligible to live where on campus, and the updated costs, will certainly not help attract undecided students.

Don't get us wrong: we think Elon's desire to foster an added sense of community by providing additional housing for upperclassmen is admirable. Studies have shown that students who live on campus are statistically more likely to achieve better grades, participate in extracurriculars and be more informed about campus events. But one can't help but notice the issues that need to be addressed promptly, if Elon wants the students to continue supporting its expansion.

Residence Life has yet to release the details of when the Station will be completed or the projected costs for each student, effectively delaying the decision process for Elon students interested in living on campus next year. They have also remained mum as to which apartments will be available to students based on their class standing. When contacted by The Pendulum, some Residence Life directors seemed misinformed regarding upper versus lowerclassmen eligibility to live in certain on- campus housing developments.

Miscommunication among those who are responsible for the housing selection process to run smoothly is bad for business. And with the clock ticking away, students cannot afford to wait much longer on Residence Life to finalize the process. Students will need time to make an informed decision on where to live based on availability and cost.

Money talks, and with the price of a college education rising every year, its voice only gets louder. Every year, students have less money to budget toward living accommodations. And while on-campus housing provides all utilities to its tenants, the cost of living in the unit itself sometimes exceeds the cost of living in an off- campus apartment and paying for utilities.

It seems the projected cost of the limited housing available to upperclassmen may also be problematic this year. Currently, the Oaks complex is one of the most expensive on- campus housing options utilized by juniors and seniors. Students have been told that the new Station at Mill Point is projected to be in the same price range as the Oaks, but that remains unconfirmed. Students who already spend thousands on tuition and books every semester will need to work out with Mom and Dad if they can even afford to live on campus next year.

Residence Life staff stated during an interview that their main priority is to fill beds in the new Station by shepherding upperclassmen toward it, to compete with the popular off- campus developments. But if they are trying to push students toward a development that isn't confirmed to be completed and has no set price, how many students do they expect will be willing to wait for these details to become available?

In addition to retaining current upperclassmen in on-campus housing, Elon is making the effort to reach out to its students currently living off campus to consider applying for the new junior/ senior complex. But it seems unlikely that students who have lived off campus for more than a year will be interested in on-campus apartments. Students who decide to live off campus typically do so for both financial and social reasons. They are willing to invest a substantial amount of money and energy into decorating and furnishing their apartments because they know they won't have to go through the process again next year. They enjoy the privacy that comes with living off campus, and are free to conduct themselves in a much less regulated environment.

It seems unlikely that these students will be willing to trade away all these benefits to apply for a development that doesn't provide the freedoms of off- campus housing.

The decision on whether to live on or off campus is one that Elon students struggle with every year. Some are determined by money, while some are determined by social life. Some come down to a matter of availability. If Elon wants to have its upperclassmen remain on campus in years to come, they will need to make sure they are providing the necessary information for students to make the best decision possible.