Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Residence Life

Change is inevitable… and necessary. Without it we fail to move forward. Higher education is not exempt from the need for change, if for no other reason than to respond to societal and economic trends, or the ever-changing needs and expectations of today’s student. It is not only pedagogy or program, but also the design of many campus buildings. One area where we have seen considerable change is in residence halls and the students who live therein! Here are just a few comparisons worth mentioning.

PRICE. A newspaper article on “dorm life” in 1936 at Eastern Kentucky State Teachers College will help to put things in perspective. Back then, instructional fees were $27 for an 18-week semester. Necessary expenses were a post office box rental for 50 cents and a $5 incidental fee, which included library usage and admittance to athletic and cultural programs. Dormitory room rental ranged from $18 to $45 per semester depending on location, furnishings and number of roommates. Rooms were inspected weekly, and there was a $3 deposit to guarantee proper care of the room and the furnishings. Amenities included “heated by steam heat and lighted by electricity,” with hot and cold running water. According to the latest College Board Report on the trends in college pricing, the average published charges for undergraduates at a four-year public institution in 2013-14 were $8,893 for in-state tuition and fees, $22,203 for out-of-state tuition and fees, plus an additional $9,498 for room and board.

HOUSE RULES. A New York Times article on Education Life speaks to the changes we have seen in house rules. A 1960s women’s dormitory handbook talked about dorm hours (11 P.M. lights out and bed checks); permission to visit home (signing out with the housemother and paying her for a two-cent postcard to notify your parents); social standards, poise and good manners (for example, by standing when an older person enters the room or approaches to speak); and personal appearance (shorts may not be worn on campus except for P.E. classes). A 2012 residence contract spoke to the possession of weapons on campus; consumption, possession or use of alcohol; personal safety (including walking on roofs or ledges); and gender equity halls.

Residence halls have evolved from basic spaces to fully furnished homes away from home. On today’s campus, quality, safety and residence life programs offered play a huge role in recruiting and retaining students. To find out more about the changes happening in residence halls, turn to page 20, where you will find Living on Campus, our 13th annual survey on residence hall construction.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

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