The Board of Visitors last week approved the construction of two more upperclassmen residence halls on the Monroe Park Campus.
The new $41 million buildings will house 426 students and have a similar service learning environment to ASPiRE and the Globe. The project will focus on leadership and innovation and entrepreneurship.
In the last five years, VCU has built four new residence halls: Cary and Belvidere Apartments, an addition to Broad and Belvidere and West Grace North and South.
Kevin Wade, senior associate director of administration services for Residential Life and Housing, said each of these dorms were built to help house the growing number of students on campus.
“(The increase in upperclassmen on-campus is due to) retention rates, graduation rates and just general satisfaction from all the things you hope students are going to get out of their experience,” Wade said. “That’s not to say that they don’t happen off grounds, but there tends to be more success from students living on grounds.”
The Office of Residential Life and Housing, showed the number of upperclassmen living on campus has increased from last October until now. Sophomores living on campus increased from 1,294 to 1,426; juniors from 571 to 864; and seniors increased from 391 to 422.
“Convenience and flexibility are the two big benefits to upperclassmen living on campus,” Wade said. “When you’re living on campus, you pay the fee to live on campus so you don’t have to worry about separate fees for Internet access, electricity, water bills … it tends to be a little bit … easier to budget.”
Reuban Rodriguez, Ph.D., associate vice provost and dean of student affairs, said the university has increased upperclassman housing to promote the community feel of VCU.
“We have seen an increase from just under 2,100 beds to about 6,000 beds,” Rodriguez said. “You can’t beat the locations of these dorms; they are right on campus and students like having that level of access.”
Senior political science major Jordan Walthour said convenience was one of the reasons he decided to stay on campus. He lived in the Broad and Belvidere apartments for the last three years.
“It’s more convenient than looking for housing off campus. The time spent looking for housing, I could be studying,” Walthour said.
Flexibility, Wade said, is also a factor that keeps upperclassmen on campus.
“When living on campus you’re signing a contract to live on campus. You’re not tied to a specific space … there is the potential to move elsewhere,” Wade said. “Whereas off campus, you’re signing a lease and you’re assigned to a specific space no matter what changes you go through.”
Some students, like junior mass communications major Tianna Harris, disagreed about the benefits of on-campus housing. Harris lived in Rhoads Hall her freshman year and Gladding Residence Center her sophomore year.
“I was sick of being on campus. I wanted my freedom, I wanted to be able to do what I wanted without anyone interfering,” Harris said.
However, despite differing opinions regarding on-campus housing, VCU has still been making efforts to retain upperclassmen students with innovations like changes in the roommate selection system last year.
Before, students would only be able to bring in one known roommate, and live with two other unknown suitemates. Wade said heightened academic commitments and increased level of community have helped to set the trend for overall retention and an increase in on-campus housing.
“Research shows that success in the classroom tends to be higher, students stay through and graduate,” Wade said. “All of those things improve when you have more students on campus. And really, living on campus is a really about having that community and having that centralized community connection to the institution.”