Two-year housing plan gets new look


By Brian Guttman

Eric Weldy, vice president for Student Affairs and Enrollment management, is re-examining the proposed second-year residency program.

First revealed in a Board of Trustees meeting on May 10, 2012, the program is part of the “Residential Renaissance.” The plan would require sophomores to stay in the residence halls. Currently, only non-commuting freshmen are mandated to live in the dorms.

“I strongly recommended that we take a second look, do an assessment from the standpoint of where we are,” Weldy said.

NIU wanted to adopt second-year residency because other MAC schools that have done so have seen rising retention rates. NIU also wanted to see a higher graduation rate and more student involvement on campus.

“The financial element is No. 1 because we see that now,” said Mike Theodore, Student Association chief of staff. “I’ve met so many students who have gotten to that point where they sign the housing and dining contract for their second year, then realize they can’t afford that and try desperately to get out of their housing contract.”

Western Illinois University, Bowling Green State, Illinois State University and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville have all adopted second-year residency programs. As part of Weldy’s re-examination, he is studying the ways in which NIU is different from these universities and deciding whether this program is best for the university.

“Even though we do have residence halls on campus, many of our students come from the northern counties of Illinois, and so they’re pretty close to home,” Weldy said. “So those are things you have to take into consideration because we may have freshmen who are admitted, who may for whatever reason, economically or whatever, it may be best for them if they commuted from home.”

Beyond the financial element and the high commuter rate, some see the program as an unnecessary restriction on student choice.

“I just think that you can’t force somebody to live on campus if they really don’t want to,” said freshman undecided major Kelsey Duquette. “It’s their choice; they should be able to do what they want. They’re 19 years old at that time, so what does it matter?”

The questions are still being asked, and the program is still in its infancy. If it is implemented, it wouldn’t be until the fall of 2015.

“I would say that we’re still gathering information, and that at this point, nothing is written in stone, and that I would want [worried students] to know that they will definitely have an opportunity to voice their concerns in regards to a change like this,” Weldy said.