On-campus plan has flaws

In a press release last week, UNA President William Cale announced that the administration will force first-time, full-time freshmen to live on campus starting fall 2014—vaguely citing years of studies conducted by universities that prove live-on requirements elicit more successful students.

Yet a joint study conducted in 2010 by researchers from Colorado College and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse found that “more successful” might just be a technical term.

The study—which consisted of a survey administered to college students at a large state school—found that, on average, GPAs increase 0.19 to 0.97 points when students live on campus. Put simply, the study suggests that on-campus student performance is one-fifth to one full letter grade higher than that of students who choose off-campus options.

Statistically speaking, that’s a pretty narrow difference—especially considering that the UNA administration made a decision that will limit student freedom and possibly drive some prospective students away based on presumably similar studies.

And if all (or most) freshmen are forced to live on campus, there’s going to be some overcrowding.

Director of Residence Life Kevin Jacques said university officials are searching for potential residence hall locations and considering the possibility of repurposing campus land to accommodate new halls.

Good, right?

Maybe not.

What’s the easiest land to “repurpose” on a college campus?

Probably parking lots.

Even if no parking spots are lost, it sounds like UNA will spend a lot of time and money solving its newfound residence hall overcrowding problem that could be devoted to solving its age-old parking problem.

Officials haven’t announced whether live-on freshmen will be allowed to bring their cars with them to school, but the decision will reveal a new set of problems.

If they are allowed, freshmen will park in UNA lots even when they’re not in class, worsening parking for non-freshmen. If they aren’t allowed, well, they’re going to have a hard time getting around a town with little public transportation.

The UNA buses certainly don’t cut it, but that’s another column for another day.

Of course, the mind of a skeptic must always jump to money. Forcing freshmen to live on campus creates a fairly consistent high demand for the product: dorms. And when demand increases, price typically does, too.

Granted, the supply of dorms will increase if administrators build new residence halls, which should, in theory, limit the potential price increase.

But—and let’s be real here—UNA’s got some hefty Division I costs to be thinking about, and UNA is a business, right?