Curry College, On or Off?

BY KEVIN DIFFILY // APRIL 2, 2012 // 

Shay Sinnott had had enough. As a freshman living on campus in the fall of 2010, she didn’t get along particularly well with her roommate and she struggled to relate to many of her fellow State House residents.

But the actual tipping point came when her entire dorm was placed in “lock down” because of the misguided actions of several residents. Some students had broken into an RA’s room and tampered with that person’s belongings, leading to a strict crackdown by the school. Just one year on campus convinced Sinnott that she needed to move on.

She came, she saw, she left. Shay Sinnott decided to move off campus after freshman year rather than deal with the poor behavior of fellow students. 

“It was group punishment,” said Sinnott, today a junior communication major who has lived in an apartment in Hyde Park the past two years. “We were on 24-hour quiet hours for two weeks, with absolutely no guest privileges. I said to myself, ‘I’m not in kindergarten!’ I was 19 years old at the time, and this was the last straw.”

Erik Muurisepp, director of residence life and housing at Curry, said a bad first-year experience living on campus often sways students not to return to the dorms. In some cases, students choose not to return to the college at all. In addition, not every residence hall is created equally—some, such as 886 Residence Hall and North Campus Residence Hall, are relatively new, while others, like the Lombard, Mayflower, State and Scholars halls, are particularly dated—yet the cost is the same no matter which dorm you reside in. In 2012-2013, room and board at Curry will cost $12,760.

“The freshman dorms have a great community, but the buildings are tired,” said Muurisepp, noting that residence life has been trying to spruce up the older dorms and update amenities, such as common rooms and bathrooms, to keep first-year students happy.

“I think the experience of living on a college campus is great, but at the end of the day, some people look at the cost and decide it would make more sense to commute from home or to get an apartment with numerous people that might be a little bit cheaper,” he added.

Sinnott echoed that sentiment, saying that she saves money by living in an off-campus apartment. She also enjoys the expanded freedom that comes with living off campus, saying she can have friends over without worrying about RA’s roaming the hallways.

Like Sinnott, sophomore Tom Isom also spent just one year on campus. A native of Florida, Isom said dorm life can be difficult for non-locals because Curry’s residence halls shut down during holidays and lengthy breaks. If he couldn’t return to Florida, he often found himself scurrying to find a place to stay.

Also, “it seemed easier to live and work up here during the summer, and it just made more sense to live off campus,” he said. “It is a lot cheaper to live off campus since you aren’t forced to pay for meal plans or dorm expenses.”

But Isom was quick to note that not everything about off-campus life is great. He said he missed living on campus because of its proximity to other students and its community, which has a livelier social atmosphere than his apartment complex in Quincy.

To some degree, most Curry students have already made their bed, so to speak, for next year. Deposits for on-campus housing were due on Sunday, March 25, and housing selection—the process by which students choose which residence halls they want to live in—takes place the first week of April.

According to Muurisepp, about 60 percent of first-year students who are eligible to return to Curry choose to live on campus their sophomore years. He also said there is a decline each year in residents living on campus. Every class has an exponentially lower number of on-campus residents, which Muurisepp said is the norm at most schools. This semester, Curry houses 505 freshmen, 320 sophomores, 236 juniors and 205 seniors.

About half of Curry’s commuting population, which makes up almost 25 percent of the schools’ total traditional undergraduate enrollment, is comprised of students commuting from their parents’ homes, with the other half living in off-campus residences, Muurisepp said.

“I think it would be great if more students stayed on campus for four years,” he added. “The only concern would be available space. I think our housing is definitely set up in a way that shows we understand” approximately how many students from each class will be staying on campus each year, and how many will be leaving. The College currently has 1,430 beds, with 1,266 residents.

Like Isom, Sinnott said she actually misses certain aspects about living on campus. The biggest is community and companionship.

“My roommate is almost never home,” she said, “and it gets lonely sometimes.”

Another challenge is budgeting and making sure all bills are paid each month. It’s much different than living on campus, where you pay in full in advance.

Muurisepp added several more reasons why living on campus is beneficial for students. “Growth and development from a residential environment has been proven to produce a student who succeeds more, is engaged more, and graduates at a higher rate due to their connection with the campus,” he said. Muurisepp pointed out that such facts are based on national research, as Curry does not have substantive data for the respective graduation rates of residents versus commuters.

What it does have is 164 empty beds, which, at a price of approximately $12,700, is $2.08 million of lost revenue. To be sure, the cost of students living off campus is more than developmental.

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