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Union College was designed to be a residential campus—two of its first three buildings were dormitories—and with 67 percent of full-time students living in residence halls, the college continues that tradition. Yet every year, some students wonder why they are required to live on campus. The answer is simple: because Union wants them to succeed.
Research conducted at colleges and universities nationwide as well as Union's own statistics all indicate strong links between academic success and residence hall life. Students who live on campus on average get better grades and are more likely to form close friendships, use campus services, hold leadership positions and stay informed about events.
One thing campus residents are less likely to do? Drop out of college.
"We've done a lot of research into why students leave college before graduation," said Linda Becker, vice president for Student Services. "Whether the reason students gave for leaving was grades, finances or something else, very often we find the issue began after moving off campus. A correlation like that strongly influences our policy decisions."
Union College's residence policy is best defined by its exceptions. In a simplified nutshell, all students must live in the residence halls unless they:
- are 22 years of age or older at the beginning of the semester
- are 21 years of age and also a senior with a 3.00 GPA, have met their worship expectations for three consecutive semesters and have good citizenship
- have children
- are married, divorced, separated or widowed
- live with a close family member who is 25 years old or older
- or in rare instances, live with an approved, non-related family.
Because of the advantages of on-campus life, many students who qualify to live off campus choose to stay in the residence halls. Union offers several incentives to older students to make the choice easier. Those who could live off campus because of their age, grades and citizenship receive a 25 percent discount on room rent, have no curfew and can have a room to themselves without any extra cost (for full details, see http://www.ucollege.edu/student-life/student-housing).
Justin Gibson and Eric Ransone, both 2010 graduates and friends since high school, chose to room together their senior year even though both were old enough to live off campus and had family homes in Lincoln. "I lived at home my freshman year then moved into the dorm my sophomore year, and this was Eric's first time living in a dorm ever," Gibson said. "Living on campus, it was so much easier to make friends, to get involved, or study with a group—the college experience before moving on campus can't even compare."
As Gibson pointed out, the real advantage of residence hall life, beyond grades, finances, years to completion and other quantifiable statistics, is a much bigger issue of friendship and a supportive community. A.W. Astin, author of What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited, would agree. In his residential hall research, he found students are more satisfied with college experience when they have lived on campus rather than living at home (311).
"College is about learning and stretching in every way imaginable, and campus life is a pillar of that growing process," said Becker. "I want every student to feel safe and accepted in our residence halls, both to bring them success now and to build fond memories for the future."