Drastic changes on housing for Northwestern students in the coming years were revealed during ASG two weeks ago. In this future, Bobb-McCulloch and Sargent are both gone, living only in fond memories of Taco Tuesdays. Five new dorms will be built, and once construction is done on-campus living will be mandatory for the freshman and sophomores.
Residential services assures that this won’t be too much of a change, as living in fraternities or sororities will be counted as “on-campus” living. While they’ll offer more apartment and home-style housing as opposed to the traditional hall-style dorm experience, some sophomores may still consider this a sacrifice of their freedoms.
Looking at what other schools are doing to keep students happy with housing might give insight into whether Northwestern is going in the right direction.
University of Wisconsin
University of Wisconsin has guaranteed housing for freshman, but no on-campus requirements. Rooms vary from small dorms in remote areas of campus to newer buildings with air-conditioning and large rooms. Its a hit-or-miss first year, and you don’t get a second chance: past your first year, there is no guaranteed housing. In fact, the school does not have the space to house all the freshmen and upperclassman that apply for on-campus living. Big state schools assume that you’ll be living in the city or somewhere else after freshman year, if you aren’t already. It’s good for partying without angering an RA, but might put you in a bind if you don’t have any friends to get an apartment with and are denied housing.
Wesleyan has guaranteed housing all four years and a process that moves students through different styles of living. Freshmen stay in dorms with a roommate like most campuses, and their second year is spent in "program houses," similar to fraternity or sorority layouts. Juniors stay in on-campus apartments, and seniors get a house in Middletown, Conn., where they stay with 2 to 6 other students, each with their own bedroom. University housing may be the more expensive option the first few years, but the cost will seem more than reasonable when these students look back after trying to buy a house themselves.
University of Chicago
Chicago’s other famous school and Northwestern’s academic rival, U Chicago, has similar housing styles to Northwestern. With bigger room sizes and some dorms having private bathrooms, the actual layout of many U Chicago buildings look similar to those in Northwestern’s future plans. However, UC does more to integrate their students into a community with the people they live with through a "house" system. Residential halls are divided by floors into houses, and act as a unit. Houses go to cultural events, compete in intramural sports and have meals at their house tables together and with academic fellows. While community alone tends to keep students until their sophomore year, the university retains some upperclassmen by offering rooms at the International House – a building that hosts guest lectures and concerts, a cafe and rooms that have been used as hotel suites. Overall, however, most students go off campus after their second year.
Yale has the same policy as what Northwestern has – first year housing is mandatory, but then its up to the students where they want to live afterwards. The catch is, is 95 percent or more live on-campus all four years, even though it isn’t required. It is hard to imagine Northwestern staying for all four years, but Yale’s extravagant amenities combined with the students’ house allegiance make them take advantage of the guaranteed housing offered. All on-campus housing at the university operates as "houses," similar to residential colleges at NU. The houses compete against each other, and operate as a team in college events; most students have major house pride. If faithfulness isn’t enough, each house contains its own library, gym and dining hall. Dorms at Yale even have their own fireplaces – although living off campus is an option, the convenience and loyalty to the dorms make students less likely to leave.
Community Colleges/The College in your town
If you’re a freshman, you’re probably a little envious of the people in high school who stayed close to home for getting to come home to their own bed every night. Students here sometimes don’t have university housing at all, and either have to get apartments in the cities they’re studying in or stay at home. This may seem nice, but commuting time is a stress these colleges, and there doesn’t tend to be a community or as much time to develop a social sphere outside of your high school friends in these places.