By Shelby Mullis
That’s the price sophomore Claire Meade pays to live in a Franklin College residence hall less than a mile from her home on the outskirts of downtown Franklin.
Freshman year, Meade lived with her parents and commuted.
She said she decided to move to a residence hall as a sophomore to experience campus life from a new perspective.
“Moving onto campus allows me to meet new people, have a place on campus to relax and live with my best friend,” Meade said. “When I commuted, I had to find things to do during breaks in my day.”
Kirk Bixler, assistant dean of students and director of career services, said many students think about making the switch from commuting to on-campus living or vice versa after their first year.
This year, 255 students are registered as commuters.
A major factor in these decisions to commute is the cost of room and board, amounting to more than $8,500 a year.
Bixler said commuting may be a perceived cost savings, but oftentimes, the savings may diminish.
“Students must factor in the cost of gas to get to and from campus,” Bixler said. “Additionally, those who are seniors living off-campus have to really look if it is less expensive when you start throwing in rent, utilities and food expenses.”
Freshman Melissa Bryant commutes from Amity, located ten minutes away from campus.
When searching for colleges, Bryant said she looked for schools she could commute to so she could save money.
“I save what I would pay in room and board,” Bryant said. “It is important to … make [my debt] as small as possible because the full responsibility of it is my own. Commuting is the most responsible thing I can do for myself.”
Bryant said she currently has no plans of moving to a campus residence hall.
For Meade, living off-campus for a year helped her decide it was time for a change.
“It was more difficult to be involved with campus life,” Meade said. “I would have to commute back for campus events or meetings. I enjoy living on campus more because it allows me to meet new people and be more involved on campus.”
Commuter students must to be more intentional about their campus involvement, Bixler said.
Because a lot of student meetings are scheduled for the evening, commuters must hold themselves accountable for coming back to campus.
Bryant said commuters who don’t put forth that effort run the risk of being an outsider their entire time on campus, she said.
“Personally, I have already met some amazing friends that live on campus, and I go to events with them,” Bryant said. “Feeling left out has yet to be an issue for me.”
The advantages and disadvantages of commuting often balance each other out for students.
Because of this, Bixler said the number of commuter students has remained consistent over the last five years.
As Franklin is a residential college, Bixler said the more students living on campus, the better.
“Those that live on campus tend to persist in college at a higher rate and tend to finish schooling quicker than those who commute,” Bixler said. “Students that live on campus versus off tend to have a richer college experience.”
Bixler attributes differences between commuters and on-campus students to the convenience.
“If you live off campus, … you have to factor in traffic conditions between home and school, how close your classes are to the parking lot and weather conditions,” Bixler said. “By living on campus, you will have a much richer college experience just from the fact that you are directly involved.”