(Credit: Megan Zendek/Fourth Estate)
Even though more students choose off-campus living, the residential population is growing each year
by Issmar Ventura
For the 2015-2016 school year, Mason saw an increase of approximately 250 students living on campus, in comparison to last year.
Melissa Thierry, associate director of Housing Services, said the rate of students choosing to live on campus is continuing to rise. She feels that on-campus living provides many benefits to students, including convenience, safety and intentional programming designed to increase student success. She said housing staff members are in the business of helping students be as successful as possible and that this is what drives Housing’s decisions.
“Now we see an increase in housing rates every year. We have approximately 6,300 undergraduate students living on the Fairfax campus. Percentages in class size varies, but are somewhat equally spread,” Thierry said.
Out of all the undergraduate students who started at Mason this semester, 35 percent are first-time freshman, 10 percent are returning freshman, 28 percent are sophomores, 16 percent are juniors, 9 percent are seniors, and 2 percent are listed as “other,” according to Mason’s Office of Institutional Research and Reporting (OIRR).
Alexis Whitted, a freshman communication major, lives on campus and said her experience so far has been enjoyable. She believes that feeling comfortable living on campus comes from adapting to the school’s culture, making a lot of friends and being actively involved.
“I know if I lived back home I would not have to pay rent, nor pay parking fees, probably eat my mom’s food, have my own room, which holds a lot of personal space,” Whitted said, “but it is the fact that everything is so convenient about living on campus, and that I get to be more independent, grow, learn and maintain new friendships [is what] made me decide for on campus.”
According to the OIRR, a total of 33,627 students are officially enrolled this semester; of this number, 22,930 are undergraduates. This large student body is known for its diversity, and students’ cultural and religious beliefs play a big factor in where they choose to live.
The Housing and Residence Life’s website says housing rates per semester can be as low as $2,960 for a quad room and as high as $4,095 for an apartment, as of the fall 2015 semester.
Additionally, the website lists numerous rules, policies, regulations and restrictions that students must abide by in order to live in a Mason facility. An example of one of these policies includes the right for university officials to enter into students’ living spaces without notice for reasons including inspections and maintenance. Students who choose to live on campus must also sign a legally-binding George Mason University Residency Hall License Agreement.
There are several additional factors students consider when deciding whether or not to live on campus, such as the availability of recreational facilities, parking costs, utility costs, and proximity to work and family.
However, despite an increasing preference for on-campus housing, student commuter numbers are still high. Parking Services has been growing in size and complexity in recent years and has increased the number of parking options it offers. According to Senior Parking Manager John Bridgeman, about 27,000 of Mason’s 34,000 enrolled students are commuters. The Fairfax Campus holds about 12,000 parking spaces, which are constantly in high demand.
Students travel to Mason from numerous cities around Northern Virginia, including Arlington, Annandale, Manassas and Falls Church. Many commute from out-of-state locations, such as areas in Washington, D.C. and Maryland, as well.
Junior communication student Eddie Cook commutes to Mason from his apartment in Fairfax. Though he believes that living on campus can be a rewarding and convenient experience, he prefers living off campus because it is more conducive to his lifestyle.
“I’d have to say it’s basically cheaper overall to live off-campus, and the benefits behind it are unparalleled. You’re not forced to have a meal plan, as food at school is very expensive and unaffordable to many students,” Cook said.
He said privacy is another concern for him, and he believes students who live on campus are missing out on some of the liberties and freedoms he and his off-campus roommates enjoy.
“I am able to have my own bathroom living off-campus, and even if it is shared, I feel a lot more comfortable sharing it with the people I chose to live with. I can basically do whatever I want because I can throw a party and have alcohol and drink alcohol in the comfort of [my] bedroom,” Cook stated. “On campus, this would not be possible as the rules and policies set are too strict.”