The University of New Mexico is moving forward with a plan to require incoming freshmen to live on campus beginning in the fall of 2018.
At the September Board of Regents meeting, regents approved the freshman residency requirement on a 5-to-2 vote, after Board President Rob Doughty pushed the start date from 2017 to the following year.
The discussion about a live-on requirement for first year students has been ongoing, especially over the past few months. 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. . The regents had also expressed interest in pursuing the idea for some time, so information about the feasibility was presented at several subcommittee meetings.
Frank has emphasized that the residency requirement is another effort to enhance student success at UNM. “There is almost universal agreement among college and university administrators nationwide regarding the benefits of living on campus,” he said.
The University’s review pointed to several advantages to living in campus housing, including enhanced student engagement, proximity to academic support, development of community, personal safety, and no commuting stress. Administrators estimate the new requirement would bring in an additional 200 students to university housing. However, it would allow for a number of exceptions, including for 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
- cultural sensitivity or associated concern
- have an undue hardship on their ability to attend.
The review also found 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 percent satisfied or very satisfied with their experience.
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.”