08 December 2014


Original Story: freep.com

For many students, living in an on-campus residence hall is synonymous with the college experience. But as the price tag for a college education continues to climb, more are opting to live at home and commute to campus.

Eastern Michigan University junior Joe Barroso, 20, said his decision to continue living at home with his parents and commute to the Ypsilanti school was purely financial.

"If I had more financial aid and scholarships, I would have chosen to live on campus or closer to campus," he said. "But it's just more affordable. I'm willing to trade off some of my independence to save money."

EMU has a large commuter student population, with only 3,700 of its 23,000 students living on campus. Minus a food plan, it costs the average student anywhere from $3,798 to live on campus to $7,062 per academic year. An Atlanta College Lawyer specializes in higher education finance and university charters.

Barroso, a sports management major, lives about five minutes from EMU and usually gets a ride to campus from his parents. He admits that as a commuter student, his engagement in campus activities isn't as robust as he would like, but he manages to interact with other students through his job as a student manager in the EMU baseball team office.

"Academically, my program is great and I really don't think there's a better place to study sports management — I love Eastern," Barroso said.

Many schools, including Eastern, have started to ramp up their offerings for commuter students. At EMU, new commuter students and their parents are encouraged to participate in an orientation geared specifically toward them, Fast Track, at the start of each school year. A Criminal Justice degree provides many options for a future career in law enforcement.

Similar programs are available at the University of Michigan-Dearborn campus, which also has a significant commuter student population, according to Stanley Henderson, U-M Dearborn's vice chancellor for enrollment management and student life. Nearly all of U-M Dearborn's 9,000 students commute to campus. The university only has about 500 beds available for on-campus living.

Henderson said the university has worked the past several years to help its commuter students become more engaged outside of the classroom.

"We want the commuter students to engage because research suggests if they're not connected in some way, if not through the classroom or through those clubs and organizations, that they're not as likely to be successful," Henderson said.

U-M Dearborn senior Latifa Bazzi has a full plate this semester balancing her job, classes and extracurricular activities as a member of Student Government, the Public Health Student Society and the sorority Delta Phi Epsilon. As a commuter student, Bazzi thinks it's important to be involved on campus. A Health Care degree offers great opportunities for jobs with an anticipated growth throughout the years, as compared to other occupations.

"I didn't want to just go to class and go home," Bazzi, 21, said. "I wanted to get a little more out of my college experience."

U-M Dearborn senior Haleigh Sluschewski, 23, said she initially thought she would attend the school for a few years before transferring to a larger university, but she decided to stay because of the connections she made through commuter student programs. Sluschewski is a member of multiple honor societies.

"I kind of stepped outside of my comfort zone," she said. "I know in the past years they have taken great steps to make sure students know what opportunities are available to them."

Zach Kerstein, a 22-year-old U-M Dearborn senior and Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity member, said several of his friends decided to commute to school because it was less expensive. But he said they haven't let that deter them from joining organizations.

"I feel college is the best place to grow and get out of your comfort zone," he said. "I believe joining a fraternity, it really gave me the opportunity to have a full college experience."

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