More students choosing to commute to school

By: Leah Devorak | Layout Editor

I commute. Do you?

Chances are, you do. After all, according to Duquesne’s Office of Commuter Affairs, commuters still make up the campus’ largest population of students. And the trend doesn’t stop here.

All across the nation, more and more students are choosing to live at home or off campus and commute to class each day rather than settling into traditional residence halls with easy access to campus life.

A 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Education found that 75 percent of all college students are commuters. In 2013, U.S. News and World Report found that, of them, 19 percent are incoming freshmen. It furthered its report in 2015 when it found 100 schools in the nation with 86 to 100 percent of their entire student populations commuting.

Those schools weren’t just cyber institutions and community colleges either. They ranged from small, private universities, like Calumet College of St. Joseph, to branches of the largest public universities in the nation, such as the City University of New York.

With all this data, it’s obvious that college is rapidly changing. But why has the new decade also brought about a new trend?

For many, forgoing college room and board has a lot to do with forgoing college room and board costs, which averaged $9,999 during the 2014-15 school year, U.S. News reported. This is much more than the cost of room and board during the 2004-05 school year, which averaged $6,672, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

According to Duquesne’s website, this year’s room and board ranges from $10,500 to $15,300, not including Brottier apartments.

Plain and simple, living on campus is expensive, so it’s no wonder students are trying their hardest to avoid it. Even doing so for one semester can lessen debt by two months’ worth of a future starting salary.

But aside from cost, there’s also the fact that the world is modernizing more rapidly than ever. Every day, new technology develops that makes taking online classes or completing school work at home much easier than moving to a college campus.

Maybe if the campus was still the main source of scholarly knowledge, traditional college housing wouldn’t be on such a decline. After all, if a student knows he’s going to need to check out library books and consult his professors three times per assignment, then he’s going to want to stay on campus.

But since all the world’s knowledge is now at everyone’s fingertips, well, the physical college institution simply isn’t as necessary. A student can learn the same things about African elephants by doing a simple Google search as he/she would have by reading a book. The only difference is that a Google search can be done anywhere at any time. But checking out something from the library? Not so much.

Increased commuting is also due to urbanization and population increases still occurring in some places, U.S. News reported. There simply isn’t any room for some institutions to set up housing, leaving commuting as the only option.

So the sudden increase in commuting students can be easily explained by the changes in the world occurring every day. But is such an increase beneficial?

Feelings on this are mixed. Complete College America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing quality secondary education to all Americans, stated in its study “Time is the Enemy” that increased commuting can cause higher retention rates thanks to opening up avenues for students to try not to juggle too much alongside their academics.

Others against commuting say that young people need the college experience in order to fully become adults. NBC News explains that having a roommate, making friends, taking impromptu naps and trying to do assignments despite noise all help shape young adults into their future selves. Living off campus, however, makes most of this impossible, which could stunt social growth.

I know that when I decided to commute, free housing, my own bed, home-cooked meals and thousands of saved dollars trumped any want of a “real” college experience. This was probably because I knew that I would end up joining clubs and making friends no matter where I lived, so “social stunting” was never a thought.

The opportunity to have a job outside of the university also added to my desire to commute, never once becoming too much to handle with my workload. It simply gave me a little extra money – and thus a little extra freedom – to go ahead and do the things that I wanted.

But everyone is different, which is why no one consensus can be had on the subject. I know I like to think that increased commuting is teaching more and more Americans how to be busy yet balanced, hopefully preparing them even more for the real world they’ll face once their studies end.

However, for some, commuting can be too much, so at the end of the day, every student has to do what feels right. If that means breaking free from the new trend, then so be it.

To find out more about commuting at Duquesne, visit the Office of Commuter Affairs in Student Union room 115.

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