While other universities across the U.S. allow students of all class standings to live off campus, Illinois Wesleyan is one exemption. IWU has a six semester live on-campus requirement, with the implication that many seniors choose to take advantage of having fulfilled this requirement to sign a lease on an apartment or off-campus house. Illinois Wesleyan should consider changing this obligation to only first years and sophomores as it can allow upperclassmen to uphold the responsibilities of an adult and can potentially be more financially savvy in the long run.
The University of Illinois (U of I) is one university that only requires first year students to live in university or private certified housing, allowing students of all other class standings to take advantage of the various living arrangements that Champaign has to offer. The model that U of I upholds has been appreciated by many students as it allows them more freedom to live where is most comfortable and convenient for them. Although IWU’s campus does not cover as much real estate as U of I’s, there are locations of off campus housing that can be more convenient for some as opposed to on-campus dorms.
Students of any major tend to stay up late, whether that be at Ames or the art building grinding for an exam or adding finishing touches to a graphic design project. It can be nerve wracking walking back to a dorm alone late at night, especially if it’s across campus from where one tends to spend most of their late night hours. Allowing upperclassmen to choose where they live for the last two years of their college career can give them the opportunity to make a living arrangement that is convenient for traveling at night or during adverse weather conditions. The overall safety of the campus community could therefore be improved in the long run, perhaps reducing instances where students feel unsafe.
The average monthly rent for a four bedroom student apartment in Bloomington, IL is $528 per month. When split among four students, the average rent per student is $132 per month. Compared to the whopping $12,418 per year that students spend on room and board at IWU before financial aid, there is an astounding difference in monthly costs. Being granted the choice to live off campus could alleviate the financial burden that so many of IWU students are under and allow them the freedom to choose a living arrangement that is in the best interest of their affordability.
All IWU students that live on campus are required to have a dining plan, which may not be as convenient for some students as it is for others. Although there are options to choose from in terms of pricing and frequency of dining, not all choices provide options for meals that are suitable for all lifestyles. Some students eat their meals long after the dining halls close, forcing them to conjure up a makeshift meal of instant mac n’ cheese in their microwave. Although most students that have a dining plan utilize it often, it may not be to the extent that was intended. In living off-campus, students have the freedom to plan their own meals and eat at any time of the day. Buying groceries at a student’s discretion can decrease waste of uneaten meals as well as preserve one’s finances overall in the sense that they are aware of their dining habits and can indulge in whatever and whenever they desire.
Renting an off-campus house or apartment as a student can make it easier to find a place to live after graduation. The opportunity to live off-campus can allow students to accumulate a renter’s history and acquire knowledge of the ins and outs of being a model renter. One can familiarize themselves with safety deposits, references, renter’s insurance and all other necessary aspects of navigating the responsibilities of renting a house or apartment.
Choosing to make one’s own living arrangements can also be beneficial to their mental health. Rather than having to succumb to the dreaded communal bathroom or endure the unbearable roommate situation, students can choose their living space and with whom they share it with. This can decrease the overall anxiety that comes with cohabitating as a college student and allow 20-22 year olds to have their own designated living space which can serve as an outlet from typical stressors that college brings.
Another factor that would benefit from living off campus before senior year would help assist the process in finding off campus housing. IWU students begin looking for apartments sophomore year which is incredibly early. If you are not in the loop, every house/apartment could be claimed before you even begin your apartment search.
In mentioning the fact that these are 20 year old adults sharing rooms with fellow classmates, living in an apartment or off-campus house can allow such students to acquire skills that are necessary to survive as a 20 something individual in the real world. Living in a dorm comes with its perks, such as cleaning services that clean bathrooms a few times a week as well as a meal plan that takes away the responsibility of cooking meals at least two times a day. But these perks can also be detrimental to a college student’s transition into a full-functioning adult. Such responsibilities are immediately undertaken upon moving out, and perhaps the opportunity to choose one’s own living arrangement can allow one the chance to ease into such responsibilities and reduce the culture shock of entering the real world.
While Illinois Wesleyan may believe that it is in the best interest of the student in requiring them to live on-campus for three years, the university should certainly reconsider as there are extensive benefits that come from living off-campus. Until then, students will just have to look forward to senior year for the opportunity to experience true independence as well as a prime outlet for preserving their finances and mental health.