Living in residence halls has a positive impact on some aspects of engagement - namely, collaborative learning, interactional diversity, and student-faculty interaction - especially when compared with students who live farther than walking distance to campus. However, living on campus did not always show benefits where effects might be expected.
Our article entitled The Benefits of Living On Campus: Do Residence Halls Provide Distinctive Environments of Engagement? was recently published in the Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice. The study incorporated responses from over 94,000 first-year students who were enrolled at 576 U.S. institutions that participated in NSSE between 2013 and 2016. Only institutions with an adequate mix of both residential and commuter students were included in the study.
In the article we discuss the historical consensus that living on campus was clearly beneficial in contrast to recent studies that show mixed results for on-campus living, especially when taking into account aspects of identity such as race. Dependent variables were five Engagement Indicators selected because of their association with a student's living arrangement (Collaborative Learning, Discussions with Diverse Others, Student-Faculty Interaction, Quality of Interactions, and Supportive Environment). We also looked at the amount of time students spent preparing for class and a perceived gains scale comprised of a handful of cocurricular outcomes (working effectively with others, developing a personal code of values and ethics, understanding people of other backgrounds, solving complex real-world problems, and being an informed and active citizen).
In general, results showed that living on campus had significant positive effects on all dependent variables, especially when compared to living farther than walking distance from campus, but effects were trivial for all but three.
The article concludes by encouraging housing professionals to examine building styles, amenities, diversity, and technology in their programs and policies to ensure that residence halls are environments that emphasize and promote engagement for all students.