Residency extension approved

Contrary to what you may have heard, you won’t be forced, kicking and screaming, into a dorm in Walker Annex your senior year due to the newly-mandated four-year residency requirement. Although the Board of Trustees approved the residency extension at their meeting in February, the requirement won’t be implemented until the class of 2015 hits their senior year, and even they will likely find more lenience than rumors would have you believe.
The push towards a residential campus started in the early 2000s, and Allegheny shifted from a two-year residency requirement to a three-year requirement in 2004. The goal has always been achieving 90 percent on-campus residency, and up until this year, a lack of available housing has made that impossible. With the construction and opening of North Village II in 2010, the school finally has enough beds—1,835, to be exact—to achieve that residency goal.
Although the four-year residency requirement represents an increase in students living on campus, it still leaves the option for 250-300 seniors in good standing with the college to apply to live off campus each year. The school has no immediate plans to purchase additional houses in Meadville to add independent-style living to the on-campus options available to students, though Vice President of Finance and Planning Larry Lee said the administration is willing to purchase houses that are available near the campus and go on sale for market value.
According to Dean of Students Joe DiChristina, the administration hopes to fill all beds available in order to pay off the bonds that were taken out to fund dormitory and other construction projects on campus.
“When we buy a piece of property, in order to eventually pay for that, the money that comes in for student housing eventually pays for that,” he explained. “It’s not trying to be a money-making venture. With NV I and NV II, we have 30-year bonds to pay off, over the course of time–we have to pay off a million each year to pay off those bonds.”
Any additional money the school takes in due to the influx of students living on campus will go into the general operating budget, which is used to fund aspects of the strategic plan and curricular development, DiChristina added.
But the initial push towards building a residential campus was not merely financial. The administration also hoped to build more residential learning communities that would bring students with similar interests together outside of the classroom, like the four Living Learning Communities that were developed for this year’s freshman class, with possible expansions of those programs in the future.
“We’ve been developing thematic programs inside the residence halls that allow students to connect to each other through their learning experiences,” DiChristina said. “In NV I, NV II, for instance, we’re trying to create a theme there about global community.”
But living off campus still may be a more attractive option for some students, simply because it can be a wiser financial option. Justin Gill, ’11, who lives in an off-campus house with seven other students, said he was able to save money mostly because he didn’t have to buy a meal plan.
“I’d always end up wasting Brooks meals, whereas now I can pretty much buy food when I need it,” he said. “And I don’t feel as restricted to eating at the on-campus places, so I’ve kind of got that variety too, which is nice.”
DiChristina said the administration realizes that in some cases, renting a home or apartment in Meadville can be more financially viable for students, and he expressed the hope that Allegheny’s Financial Aid Office would work with students to address these concerns. But Gill mentioned other advantages to living off-campus that may not be easily solved through an on-campus office.
“Hearing from friends who were older than me and lived off campus, they basically said it was a much nicer experience than living in the dorms, you get more independence, you get an environment with people you choose,” he said. “It’s kind of nice to not constantly have Res Life looming over your head, there’s more independence.”
But Shane Downing, ’11, ASG president, who attended the last Board of Trustees meeting along with ASG Vice-President Jamie Havens, ’11, said the Board had been amenable to possibly offering students options to simulate that independence.
“A lot of trustees were willing to talk about flexible solutions, where maybe we redefine how seniors interact with Residence Life, maybe they have sort of a sit-in landlord who isn’t an RA but who is maybe a community member,” he said. “[One option] may be not requiring all seniors to have meal plans. So it’s not going to be very strict, seniors won’t be living in dorms, it will be very real-life.”
Downing added that he’s been very satisfied with his apartment-style living arrangements—a style of housing that DiChristina mentioned the school has worked to expand, to meet upperclassmen needs and expectations.
“I’m quite honestly fine with the four-year residency requirement,” Downing said. “We have a number of options to keep the upperclassmen happy.”