Housing policy intends to increase retention

By Megan Lupo

As of Fall 2019, incoming full-time freshmen will be required to live on campus until the end of their sophomore year because of a new housing requirement established as part of the university’s strategic plan, according to Vice President for Student Affairs Leanna Fenneberg.

The concept of the requirement was created before Fenneberg was hired at Rider, but this past year, she worked with the university to strengthen and institute it. 

Fenneberg said this policy was implemented as a way to increase student engagement and excitement within the university and decrease the perception that Rider is a suitcase school.

“Rider students who live on campus have a higher degree of campus involvement in student organizations and campus activities,” said Fenneberg in an April 20 email. “Our distinctive focus on engaged learning is designed to have an impact on everything you do as a Rider student, both in and out of the classroom. That includes contributing your time and energy to become an active and involved member of our community.”

Student Government Association President Olivia Barone believed that the requirement will fulfill what it is intended to do.

“I think the policy will help enforce the engaged learning requirements for the incoming classes,” Barone said. “Freshmen and sophomores will be more inclined to attend events and get involved in other clubs and organizations.”

According to Bronc Nation, residential student involvement was double the amount of commuter student involvement this fall.

Some of the ways that Fenneberg plans to entice more students to participate on campus are by organizing more weekend events, enriching residential learning communities, improving facilities and selecting a new dining vendor. 

Rider is in the process of renovating Wright and Ridge Halls and previously renovated Gee Hall in 2017. Kroner Hall, Zeta Tau Alpha House, Delta Phi Epsilon House and Conover Hall are the upcoming residencies intended to be updated, according to Fenneberg.

Fenneberg does not believe an increase in residents will contribute to a spike in reported incidents, citing that the same safety and security protocol will be in place. 

“We’re really trying to transform the culture of campus, starting with communicating with prospective students,” Fenneberg said. “The ideal goal of this is in support of our unwavering focus on student growth. How do we get students more engaged on campus and in their Rider experience to meet this goal?”

The new policy will be integrated in the Office of Admissions’ future marketing and communication campaigns to inform the prospective class of 2023 students, according to Fenneberg. 

Fenneberg is unable to determine what the exact housing cost will be when the policy is executed, but she predicted it will be lower.   

“We engaged in an external vendor called Brailsford & Dunlavey, and they looked at our comprehensive housing [which is] everything from facilities, to the local market, to our price point,” Fenneberg said. “One of their recommendations is that we become a little more competitve regarding the room and board rate. That’s something we’re looking at for future years. So I think you will see less of an increase over the next few years.”

Even if the housing costs are reduced, there is still a strain on students in dire financial need, which is one of the exceptions noted in the policy.

 Fenneberg said, “We want to be as liberal as we can while still supporting our core belief that this is a good thing for students to experience. We’re working through what would be the criteria. It will certainly be driven by their financial situation, which is usually informed by their [Free Application for Federal Student Aid], and our financial team is looking at how we would define that level of need.”

Recognizing that students fall within the exception guidelines, Fenneberg doesn’t want the policy to deter desiring traditional commuter students from applying to Rider, as the university will still provide them with support and engagement. 

When considering the homeless student population, specifically if they are within the 30-mile requirement from campus, Fenneberg does not have an answer in addressing their campus living situation at the present time.

Although Fenneberg expressed uncertainty regarding how the policy will impact the student application numbers, she said that “students that are more involved will have a better experience” based on studies throughout the country. 

 “National studies show students who live on campus also get more engaged socially,” Fenneberg said. “They perform better academically, they persist to the next year and they graduate in a more timely way. The goals in the strategic plan, which state persistent goals for freshmen and graduation, are connected.”

For this policy, the university researched how other institutions constructed their policies and determined their exceptions.

Barone sees the benefit in requiring freshmen and sophomores to live on campus. 

“I think students will be able to see their friends more regularly and create a stronger bond with their hallmates, community assistants and classmates,” said Barone.

 Fenneberg hopes that this policy will boost school spirit and create a vibrant, active community. 

“I hope we’re really going to increase morale,” Fenneberg said. “I hope we’re going to increase what’s happening on campus, what it feels like on campus and how students participate on campus.”  

 

If you have any questions about the new policy, you can contact the Office of Residence Life at reslife@rider.edu or 609-896-5057. 

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