Study: Freshmen who live on campus have higher graduation rate


Photo Illustration: David Derong

Dorms offer students the space they need to study, sleep and socialize.

Erin Coppock

According to a recent study conducted by the ISU Department of Residence, freshmen who lived on campus during the first year of college at Iowa State had a higher graduation rate compared with their off-campus peers.

Along with a higher graduation rate, the study found that living on campus during the first year resulted in a higher return rate to Iowa State and an increased improvement of academic performance. Even though Iowa State does not have a mandatory policy to have freshmen live on campus during their first year, on-campus living provides many benefits to those who choose to take advantage of them.

Because the majority of freshmen choose to live on campus for their freshmen year (in 2010, 78 percent of freshmen lived on campus), Iowa State has 19 residence halls and three different apartment complexes to accommodate them.

Living in an on-campus hall or apartment offers many benefits that living off campus does not, said Ginny Arthur, associate director of residence.

“On-campus housing provides an environment that supports academic and personal success,” Arthur said. “We have staff and activities that encourage interaction, involvement and academic support.

“Students who live in the residence halls feel connected and get better acclimated to the university very quickly, resulting in them feeling more engaged both academically and personally. It’s what I believe leads to higher graduation and return rates. The location is also convenient for students and offers meal plans and many dining options.”

This past year, 88 percent of freshmen who lived on campus returned to Iowa State, making it the highest return rate in the past decade. Arthur believes Iowa State’s use of MAP-Works, which was first used in 2008, helped make this year’s return rate higher than in years past.

MAP-Works is used by more than 85 percent of on-campus first-year and first-time freshmen and is an online assessment tool designed to help students make a successful transition to life at Iowa State. Specifically, it is an assessment tool that is designed to provide feedback to help students establish expectations and connections with campus resources. It assists freshmen with academic success, retention, student development and student involvement.

MAP-Works also provides interactive, user-friendly data to faculty and staff encouraging and enabling proactive interactions with students. According to research, students who participated in the MAP-Works assessment during fall 2010 had a final GPA .37 higher than those who did not complete the assessment.

Courtney McCulloh, open-option freshman, has found living in a residence hall is a positive experience.

“I really enjoy living in the dorm mainly because it has been one of the best ways to meet new people, specifically a lot of other freshmen. Even though living in a tiny room isn’t the most ideal living situation, the dorms are closer to campus, the rec center and Jack Trice Stadium,” McCulloh said.

Along with feeling more connected and involved within the university, living in an on-campus residence hall or apartment allows students to develop leadership skills that could help them succeed throughout college and their careers. According to Arthur, floor governments are a way to implement leadership opportunities for incoming freshmen.

“We are particularly dedicated to helping students succeed academically, and we have multiple leadership opportunities,” Arthur said. “We are one of very few universities who have a house system, whereby each floor has a house government with many opportunities for involvement. These could include but aren’t limited to an appointed president, secretary, treasurer and other roles. Having floor meetings and house governments provide freshmen [the opportunity] to uphold leadership roles.”

McCulloh believes that living in the dorm has made the transition from high school to college easier.

“Living on a floor where I get along with people and interact with [them] on a daily basis makes me feel a part of something. My [community adviser] is very accommodating and makes daily activities more enjoyable,” McCulloh said.