Freshman Orientation
A new plan that requires most freshmen to live on campus has been tabled by the UNM Regents' Finance and Facilities subcommittee.
Credit: Steve Carr

A plan to consider a new residency requirement for freshmen coming to The University of New Mexico in fall 2017 is on hold, for now.  Regents on the Finance and Facilities subcommittee tabled the proposal during the Aug. 1 meeting to allow more time for input from various constituencies on and off campus, including students and potential students who might be impacted by the requirement.

President Robert G. Frank had requested that the University’s Institutional Support Services (ISS) and Enrollment Management (EM) divisions do a thorough review of the pros and cons of the concept and make a recommendation to administration. Then, information about the feasibility was presented to the regents, although it does not require regent approval.

“This is another effort to enhance student success at UNM,” Frank said. “There is almost universal agreement among college and university administrators nationwide regarding the benefits of living on campus.”

Advantages of living in campus housing, cited in the review, include:

  • enhanced student engagement
  • proximity to academic support
  • development of community
  • personal safety
  • no commute stress
  • and others.

The University’s review shows that students living on campus succeed at much higher rates than those living off campus. In 2014, freshman students living on campus had an 85 percent retention rate headed into their sophomore semester compared to 75 for those living off campus. The completion rates are also significantly better for campus residents. Six-year graduation rates for on campus students who started UNM in 2009 was 52 percent compared to 45 percent for off campus. The five-year graduation rate was 41 percent for on campus and 33 percent for off campus residents. Surveys of those living in UNM housing seem to echo the sentiment that the environment is beneficial with positive feedback of nearly 93% satisfied or very satisfied with their experience.

The recommendation is to approve a first year live-in residential requirement for fall 2017 with standard exceptions, including students who:

  • live with a parent, guardian or family member within 30 miles of main campus
  • are at least 20 years old at the beginning of the academic year
  • are domestically partnered, married or have legally dependent children
  • have a medical or accessibility circumstance or
  • have an undue hardship.

The ISS/EM team estimates that another 350 students would be required to live on campus based on their permanent residence of over 30 miles from UNM. University housing including the American Campus Community facility of Casas Del Rio had room for more than 475 more students, so there is room for growth.

The safety and security of students was also a core value in the recommendation. Nearly 100 percent of UNM’s beginning freshmen are traditional students with an average age of just over 18 years. The University’s most recent Clery crime reporting period recorded 30 incidents in campus residential communities for an entire year. In contrast, there were 356 crimes reported within a two-mile radius of the UNM zip code in one recent month.

“Requiring our youngest and most vulnerable students to live on campus is common sense,” said Terry Babbitt, associate vice president for enrollment management. “Placing 18 and 19 year olds in a safe campus environment where they don’t have to drive and park and have academic and social support within a few steps will allow them to quickly gain momentum for success.”

One obstacle for some students considering living on campus is the additional cost of room and board. At UNM, residence hall rent and meals are about $9,500 annually, compared to a year of tuition and fees at below $7,000.

A survey of impacted students showed that as many as a third of them - about 115 - might choose not to come to UNM if they are required to live on campus. However, the review team determined the loss would likely be countered by stronger retention and graduation rates in the long run, with the students who are living on campus that first year successfully staying in school for the duration and graduating in a timely manner.