August 19, 2009 in Idaho

UI considers making freshmen live on campus

Associated Press
 

MOSCOW, Idaho — The University of Idaho is pitching a plan that would require most of its first-year students to live on campus.

Administrators at the Moscow campus say the move would bolster residency hall occupation and generate additional $700,000 in revenue for housing and dining services.

But more importantly, they say, the policy shift could boost retention rates for first-year students. A 2008 study by the university found that 88 percent of students who lived in residence halls or the Greek system returned for their second year, while only 59 percent of new students who lived off campus returned for their sophomore year.

“This is one strategy that we feel is important to incorporate in our plan to improve the first-year experience,” Bruce Pitman, Vice Provost for Student Affairs, told the Lewiston Tribune.

New President Duane Nellis has approved the policy and other steps being considered by the university to improve first-year retention rates.

The next step is for university officials to sketch out the details to the state Board of Education when it meets Thursday in Pocatello. A board vote on the proposal would come later.

University officials are hoping to establish the policy in time for the 2010 fall semester.

The proposal includes a few exceptions. For example, first-year students who are married with children would be exempt. It also exempts those opting to live at home with parents, first-year students older than 21 or those with at least 30 credits completed.

Pitman said the university’s goal is to boost overall first-year student retention rates to 85 percent in the next three years, up from the current rate of 79 percent.

Although living on campus can be more expensive, Pitman said it’s worth the price for students to stay in school and perform better in the classroom.

Students living on campus are closer to resources, more socially connected to campus life and more engaged in their own learning, Pitman said.

“There are some very real reasons why starting your academic experience on campus really matters,” he said.

Several other regional universities already require freshmen to live on campus, including Washington State University, Central Washington University, Montana State University, University of Montana, Colorado State University, University of Colorado and the University of Wyoming.

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