The New Policy
The credit hours requirement to move off campus increased this year from 86 hours to 96 hours, effectively eliminating juniors from moving off campus.
The student handbook lists four possibilities for being approved to live off campus: the student’s parents live within a 40-mile radius of campus, the student will be either married or 22 prior to the first day of fall semester, the student is part-time or the student has 96 credit hours.
In previous years, a student could be 21 by the first day of fall semester or have 86 hours. This allowed some students who had only completed two years at Union to move off in their third year because of additional credits from summer classes, J-term classes, CLEP tests and AP tests. Ken Litscher, director of residence life, said the administration changed the policy in order to keep juniors on campus.
“Ideally with the policy, we’d like all students who aren’t married or living at home with their parents to live on campus their first three years,” he said. “If we let all of our juniors and seniors move off campus, it hurts the community on campus.”
Ninety-six credits is three quarters of the way to the 128 required to graduate, so most people will not have that many until they are ready to graduate at the end of the year. However, 86 hours is 42 credits short of the graduation requirement, and not many people can earn that in one academic year, Litscher said.
According to Litscher, the driving philosophy behind having a residency requirement is to help the Union community be the best it can be, and he cited research that shows students who live on campus are more involved, satisfied and successful academically.
“From the beginning, Union has desired to be a residential campus,” he said. “We also believe that the type of Christian community that can happen when you live on campus is unique—you’re not going to have it when you leave here, and ideally it’s the iron sharpening iron that Proverbs talks about.”
Residence Life will still allow appeals before committees for students who financially need to move off but don’t meet the requirements. There is no guarantee the appeal will be granted, but Litscher said the committee does their best to adhere to “the spirit” of the policy.
Breakdown by the Numbers
The cheapest a student can live on campus for a year before scholarships is $9,090, according to the 2015-2016 list of tuition and fees. This stacked on top of the tuition and other school fees means the full cost of a semester at Union is $19,505.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the average need-based scholarship or loan package for a Union student is $5,886. This excludes merit scholarships, but the cost still piles up quickly over four years. The class of 2014 had an average indebtedness of $29,187.
Litscher said Residence Life staff and the administration recognize living on campus is expensive, but he didn’t think moving off campus would greatly ease a student’s financial burden. In a dorm, water, Internet, cable and electricity are provided for students, and those living off campus have to pay for such utilities separately.
“If you’re not living in an apartment where you share a bedroom, it’s not going to be as big of a savings,” he said.”
Rebecca Dalton, junior teaching English as a second language and education double major, said sharing her Cherry Grove apartment bedroom was well worth the savings. She and her three roommates split the rent and utilities on a three bedroom apartment with a full kitchen, 2 bathrooms, a living room and a fireplace. Dalton’s monthly bills for rent, water, electricity and Internet total $285. Over the course of her ten-month lease, she will spend $2,850. Her year’s expenses are less than half of an on-campus student’s semesterly expenses.
Savings for off campus students vary depending on location and number of roommates splitting the bill. However, Dalton’s roommate Lydia Atchley, junior conservation biology major, said she still thought living off campus was a smart way to save money.
Dalton said moving off campus was about more than saving money—it allowed her to become more involved on campus. Because of the money she was saving, she only needed to work approximately 20 hours a week and was able to join the cross-country team.
“My connection to the Union community has definitely increased since moving off campus because saving money has allowed me to worry less and given me the freedom to be involved,” she said.
In addition to being on the cross-country team, Dalton also volunteers with the Liberty in North Korea club and is considering being in a Women’s Cooperative Bible study this spring. She said while she understood why the policy had changed, she was disappointed.
“I’m really sad for people that do have financial burden being at Union that they don’t have the same opportunities,” she said. “I understand the reasons but it seems unfair.”
Other students who lived on campus said finances weren’t a factor in their decision to stay on campus. Angelica Shipps, junior public relations major, said she isn’t planning to move off next year even after she is eligible because she doesn’t want the responsibility that comes with an apartment and she enjoys the convenience of living on campus.
Andrew Hicks, junior cell and molecular biology major and RA for the second year, said he understands the tough position some students are in financially, but he also sees great benefits to living on campus.
“Because you live among the community of students, there are a lot of organizations that put on events that are directed at students who are on campus,” he aid. “If you’re not on campus you could easily miss out on a lot.”
*An earlier version of this article incorrectly listed Andrew Hicks’ major as biology