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We the Students: Making the Case for the Reconsideration of the New Campus Housing Policy

A Perspective on Policy by Students of Plymouth State University

By Ash Bergeron, Jaylin Cloutier, Grace Dawson, Jenna Favreau, Emily Gantz, Mason Masotta, & Isabella McDonald
On December 9, 2018

This document is the result of a class project in Dr. Metasebia Woldemariam's Introduction to Media & Cultural Studies course. Its purpose is to argue the points of the newly-introduced requirements for off-campus housing for the 2019-2020 school year and to suggest compromises that would benefit students and better the relationship between the students and the administration. 



It is the intent of this document to question the guidelines, set in an email sent without any previous warnings or discussion, and provide clarity on the regulations regarding new housing policies, distributed to Plymouth State University students and staff on October 25th. Communication between the University and the students on this matter has been limited and entirely indirect, resulting in public outcries for transparency and a return to the original rules that had been in practice before.

This concept is seen as essential, as with such a major policy change, the product (PSU education) purchased by the consumer (enrolled students) has been altered after payment has been allocated. In order to come to an understanding and provide both the executives of the University with the knowledge required to make a more intellectually based decision, as well as inform concerned student body members who have been blindsided by draconian alterations in pre-established housing guidelines, the following essay has been constructed.

Several of the new alterations made to off-campus qualifications have been analyzed and questioned as we strive for understanding. When new policies are made overnight they are often received as oppressive in nature and the populace is left to wonder how much consideration was made for the improvement of the product, as well as the general welfare of the consumers. The economic value of these new policies is clear for the school, but the financial hardship on the students enrolled is equally so.


Section 1: Recommendations for improving the policy

  1. The age requirement of 21 years old should be changed to a requirement of having completed one academic year on-campus.
  2. The transfer student requirement should be lowered to 40 credits to live off-campus and should include the credits earned at a previous institution.


Section 2: Arguing the validity of the 21-year-old age requirement

It is obvious that the 21 year age cut off is a decision made purely on an alcohol consumption basis. Automatically, it can be seen as inherently insulting to restrict 18-20-year-olds from housing on this basis. At the age of 18, citizens of the United states are considered adults and are subject to all manner of legal and financial responsibility. Is it Plymouth State University’s position that this is in fact not the case. It would be very interesting to take a look at their research and see what caused them to find the age of 18 unsuitable for solo living.

Section 2.1: Further questioning

Will there be a ban on 21-year-olds living in dormitory housing? Or even visiting for that matter? After all, if the goal is to limit the influx of alcohol actually being brought on campus and being consumed, shouldn’t those who can legally purchase it be excluded from housing? What is to stop 21-year-old students from purchasing alcohol for underage students?

Will there be a check-in and mandatory lights out time to ensure that all under 21 students did not go literally anywhere else?

It would appear that the real intention of this new 21-year old limit on off-campus housing does not have anything to do with public health and safety as far as alcohol is concerned, but rather seeks to loop a larger pool of students into being forced into a more expensive (and high profit for the school) housing space.

Section 2.2: Possible compromises

The school has made a clear intention as to the scholastic and communal value of a first-year experience. This value can be seen as new situations require adaptation, particularly in a shift from high school to college for many first-year students. The “age requirement” should, in reality, be no requirement of physical age at all, but instead have one’s first scholastic year as the only requirement.


Section 3: Arguing for the validity of transfer credits

The original communication received by students regarding applicable credits in the context of the new Plymouth State University housing policy states that “Students who have earned 64 or more Plymouth State University credits by the end of the Early Spring term (January 31, 2019) as documented by the Plymouth State University official registrar records” (A. Grazioso, personal communication, 25 October 2018). This new rule about transfer students is significantly different from the old policy that Plymouth State University had. According to the Plymouth State University Residential Life Frequently Asked Questions page as of November 18th, 2018, the old policy states: “All full-time matriculated students are required to live on campus for their first two academic years. Transfer students under age 21, by the beginning of the admitted semester, must live on campus for one full academic year. In general, this means all students who have earned 45 credits by the end of the January 2018 will be eligible to reside off-campus for the next academic year” (2018).  We would like to argue in favor of the inclusion of transfer students in the school community and propose a solution that would allow transfer students to use their transferred credits toward the credit requirements.

To that end, we would like to demonstrate a few of the problems that transfer students face with this new housing policy.

Section 3.1: Credit mobility

Transfer students deal with the issue of credit mobility (or in many cases, immobility) issues with transferring credits from other institutions can complicate a student’s progress toward a degree (M. Hodara, M. Martinez-Wenzl, D. Stevens, & C. Mazzeo, 2017). This credit loss can cause students to be unable to graduate on time or cause difficulty in switching or selecting majors, which can create extra stress.

Section 3.2: Financial stress

A significant part of the stress surrounding credit acceptance/mobility is of a financial nature. Since some credits do not transfer, students lose money in the process of the transition and therefore may feel that they must save money in another area of their college experience. For many, significant financial relief comes in the form of off-campus housing, as it is often less costly than living in a dorm. If transfer students are forced to live somewhere they cannot afford, it may a) deter them from coming to the school in the first place, or b) force them to either work more or take out more loans, overworking and overstressing them psychologically and/or financially.  

Section 3.3: Issues of inclusion

According to a Boston Globe article, although there are more transfer students now than in the past, they often feel that they are abandoned by the school and receive less help integrating into the rest of the student population once they arrive on campus (M. Dostis, 2012). Once transfer students do meet the challenges of being thrown into an environment where it seems as if everyone has already made friends, they often want to stay with the friends they have made in the process of their transition, which is often aided by a shared living situation. According to the Dostis article, “[Non-transfer] students have already made their friends. It takes a certain amount of perseverance, being assertive, and jumping into a situation for these [transfer] students” (2012). Since transfer students are often sophomore-level and above, the housing agreement should include them in order to give them an opportunity to live in a situation where they are able to continue their friendships with other students instead of separating them from the rest of the student body because of a difference in where their class credits originated.

Many students turn to off-campus housing as a way to be able to save money, as the rates for off-campus housing often costs less than on-campus housing (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). According to the Plymouth State University website, the cost per semester for a double room without a bathroom, which seems to be the most common option, is $3,650, while the on-campus student apartment with a private bedroom (the costliest option) is $5,200 (Plymouth State University, 2018). The least expensive option is a quad, which is listed at $3,200; however, it is doubtful that many people would be in a quad, even with every student who does not meet the requirements laid out in the communication from ResLife. An off-campus apartment cost $9,970 for the 2017-2018 academic year, while on-campus living was listed at $10,960 per year (National Center for Education Statistics, 2018). According to P.J. Jones, S.Y. Park, & G.T. Lefevor, “financial stress is associated with decreases in both mental and physical health, as well as increases in anxiety” (2018). This kind of financial stress can be harmful to the health of students, and we believe that students looking for financial relief should be able to find it in the area of student housing. Excluding transfer students from off-campus student housing based on credits adds to the financial, social, and academic stress of their experience.  

Section 3.4: Proposed alternative for transfer students

Keene State University has a 40-credit minimum for living off-campus, with 120 credits needed for graduation. We believe that this policy is fair to students and gives them the responsibility of living in a situation where they must learn to include everyday things in their routines such as buying their own groceries and cleaning up after themselves, as well as dealing with any consequences of their actions, which is a fundamental part of acclimating to the world outside of school. In addition, we believe that transfer students should be able to use the credits they have earned at another institution to count toward the credit requirement for living off campus; we also propose that transfer students should have at least one semester worth of Plymouth State University credits in addition to their transfer credits.


Section 4: Faculty support

In addition to the student response to these proposed changes to the housing policy, the full-time faculty at Plymouth State University have issued a response supporting the students. The executive committee of the Plymouth State University American Association of University Professors (PSU-AAUP) emphasized in the statement that the decision was “a hasty one, made at the highest levels of the administration, and based entirely on financial concerns, which are now to be passed on to students” (Evelyn Stiller, personal communication, November 19 2018). Faculty are also concerned with retention and recruitment rates as well as the contradictory nature of this policy in comparison with the number of credits that students are advised to take: “Additionally, as advisors, we are concerned students will feel unable to make appropriate academic decisions, such as withdrawing from classes, because they will be worried about dropping below the 64-credit threshold. Too, faculty have traditionally advised students to take 15 credits per semester, meaning students could be punished for doing exactly what their academic advisors counseled them to do” (Evelyn Stiller, personal communication, November 19 2018).

We believe that this faculty support goes to show the true extent to which the university population believes the policy will affect future educational ventures of students already enrolled or planning to enroll at Plymouth State University.


Section 5: Conclusion

We believe that although the university is having issues with money, it should not force its students to take on these issues. The proposed changes to the campus housing policy would likely serve as a deterrent for future applicants, as well as a significant obstacle to degree completion for continuing students on a financial, social, and stress/mental health basis (as outlined in the sections above). We believe that there is at least room for compromise and civilized discussion of the issue, if not the opportunity for reconsideration of the new policy and the possibility of keeping the older policy in effect.

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