Two-year residency up in air

By Kelley Byrne

NIU President Doug Baker may soon make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees on whether to implement a second-year residency requirement in fall 2015.

Eric Weldy, vice president of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said the decision to apply the second-year residency requirement, if brought to the Board of Trustees, would be made in May. Baker will consider the results of student surveys and focus groups when he makes his recommendation.

Students were asked to fill out online surveys in order to see how they would feel about this change. Freshmen and sophomore students living in residence halls were also invited, via email, to ongoing focus groups seeking input on NIU housing.

“My office has worked with the Department of Governmental Studies here on campus in conducting a survey to get responses from freshmen students who are living on campus and from sophomore students who are living both on- and-off campus,” Weldy said. “So we’ve been looking to gather than information.”

Administrators think a second-year residency requirement may help with retention issues.

Paul Palian, director of Media and Public Relations, said NIU had a 71 percent retention rate in the fall of 2010, but that has since decreased.

“Sophomore retention rates at schools with a second-year residency requirement are typically higher than without,” Palian said.

Illinois State University requires students to live in university housing the first two years out of high school, and that university has an 85 percent retention rate, Palian said. Other schools across the MAC that have a second-year residency program also have a higher retention rate, Palian said: Bowling Green State University has a retention rate of 77 percent and Ohio University’s retention rate is at 80 percent.

“We’re also going to do some focus groups, student focus groups, and once all the information has been collected the president will look at it,” Weldy said. ”A team of us will look at that information and the president will make a decision to submit a proposal or a recommendation to the board of trustees.”

Junior Spanish major Michelle Boesen said students interact with each other in ways other than in residence halls, making the requirement unnecessary.

“I think once you’re past freshman year, you shouldn’t be forced to stay any longer than that,” Boesen said. “I mean, you’re gonna be interacting with students either way. You’ll be getting involved with stuff.”

Although Boesen commutes, she said finances would motivate students to be against the second-year residency program.

“It’s [an] expensive thing, too, that’s the biggest thing,” Boesen said. “That’s why I commute, because it’s easier.”

Anthropology graduate student Rachel Martiniak went to Illinois State University for a year before transferring to Northeastern Illinois University and is now pursuing her master’s at NIU.

“I think it matters more what is done while you live here, so if there aren’t activities where the people on your floor get together to do some sort of activity, I don’t know how much that would help,” Martiniak said.