Published: Aug 25, 2012 07:00 PM
Modified: Aug 24, 2012 02:23 PM
Earlier this month, Chapel Hill underwent its annual transformation into a true college town as thousands of Carolina students returned for the 2012-13 academic year.
All of our first-year students and about 75 percent of sophomores moved into residence halls and apartments on campus, while the rest moved into their homes off campus.
At UNC, 57 percent of full-time undergraduate students live on campus. That is a higher percentage than any of our peer public universities, including the University of Virginia (54 percent), Indiana University (43 percent) and N.C. State University (35 percent).
Students have many good reasons for living on campus, including proximity to classes and libraries, ability to participate in campus clubs and activities and the chance to interact with their peers. And the first-year students don’t get a choice; they are required to live on campus.
But after that first year, some students prefer to live off campus, and they have good reasons for that, too. They are looking for more space, more privacy, more independence and, sometimes, a spot to park the car they need to get to work or an internship.
Our housing and residential education office has done a great job of matching availability with demand, keeping residence halls filled nearly to capacity and waitlists for rooms very short. We regularly renovate and refurbish our residence halls and continue to offer apartment-style options attractive to older students and students with families. Granville Towers, another option for students, has its own swimming pool and dining hall.
But I don’t think we will ever house all our students on campus. We don’t have the space, and we don’t have the money to ensure that every student can live here – even if they wanted to. All those apartment complexes, condominium communities and landlords who rely on the student market wouldn’t like that situation either.
Living off campus also offers students the opportunity to become part of the community in a new way. Ideally, students will learn what it means to be a good neighbor: disposing of garbage appropriately, keeping the noise down when others are trying to sleep, obeying parking and alcohol laws and getting to know the people who live next door. The university and the Town of Chapel Hill work together through the Good Neighbor Initiative and other programs to improve the relationship between permanent and temporary residents.
During the development of Chapel Hill 2020, the town’s comprehensive plan, residents raised questions about how the town can balance the needs of off-campus students and the integrity of the neighborhoods they move into.
I invite you to find out more about student housing and continue that discussion.
Winston Crisp is vice chancellor for student affairs at UNC.