Officials: Housing won’t be used to generate revenue

11-07-08 Housing
Manzanita Hall's signature triangles are seen towering over ASU's Tempe campus on Monday. (Lindy Mapes/The State Press)
Published On:
Friday, November 7, 2008
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The expectation for next year’s ASU freshmen to live on campus is not intended to bring in revenue to the University but instead to boost freshman-retention and graduation rates, officials said.

All revenue ASU collects from student housing payments, by law, must go to support on-campus housing, said Michael Coakley, associate vice president and executive director of university housing.

“Anything we make, we have to pay off the system,” Coakley said.

Auxiliary financial benefits, like student meal plans, are used for programs like student engagement and cannot be used for outside expenses, he said.

ASU could not provide budget estimates for next year because rates have not yet been approved by the Arizona Board of Regents, Coakley said.

But the goal is for ASU to break even with residence-hall operating costs, he said.

Research shows students who live on campus during the first year have higher GPAs, graduation rates and more positive college experiences — all of which improve ASU’s profile and standing, he said.

Diana Bejarano, spokeswoman for University Student Initiatives, said on-campus housing is in the interests of the students.

“The goal is to retain students and support them and make them academically successful,” she said.

Students who live on campus during their first year drop out at a rate of about half as much of those who live off campus independently of their parents, Coakley said.

While precise figures are difficult to nail down, Coakley said, nearly 40 percent of freshmen who live off campus and away from their parents end up leaving ASU.

About 25 percent of freshmen who live off campus with their parents, leave the University, he said.

But students who live on campus leave ASU at a rate of less than 20 percent, Coakley said.

These figures do not apply to upperclassmen, he said.

ASU President Michael Crow said the University’s freshman-retention rate has been hurt by the lack of a freshman housing requirement, which is present at most major universities.

“It helps them to acculturate to the life at a university,” Crow said. “Retention rates go up.”

It is ASU’s goal to have 25 percent of its student population living on campus by 2015, once student housing projects at the West, Polytechnic and Downtown Phoenix campuses are complete, he said.

Computer science freshman Steve Milligan said he has enjoyed his first semester living at ASU probably more than if he had lived off campus.

“I think if you’re out of state, it’s definitely a big deal,” said Milligan, who is from Corvallis, Ore. “[In] classes, you sit down with 100 people; you’re not going to meet anyone.”

Milligan said living on campus has helped him to get involved and meet people at ASU. He said that as long as it’s financially feasible for a student to live on campus, it is better for freshmen to choose student housing over off-campus housing.

Even though the University will expect next year’s freshmen to live on campus, Coakley said ASU would make exceptions for students who cannot afford to live on campus or who already live close to ASU, along with some other situations.

“We’re not going to make [everyone] live on campus,” he said. “We’re going to look at it at a case-by-case basis.”

Reach the reporter at matt.culbertson@asu.edu.