Extending the Off-Campus Option


Date: November 10, 2015

To: Kevin Hughes, Dean of Students

From: Aubrey Kosa, Student

Subject: Study on Student Sentiment towards CNU’s Three-Year Living Requirement


            The purpose of the study was to examine whether offering all CNU upperclassmen students (third year and above) the option to move off-campus would increase student satisfaction with CNU housing and overall CNU experience.

Christopher Newport University has mandated that all first, second, and third year students must live in on-campus housing. The few exemptions include: commuter students, students who are married, students who are twenty-three years or older, students who have exhausted all financial resources, or students who have a medical reason. Many third year students desire to move into off-campus housing, but are denied permission because they do not meet the requirements. Those students who are now being forced to live on-campus for a third year take up space in upperclassmen housing, which sometimes fills up. This leaves some upperclassmen to scramble for a room in James River Hall, a sophomore residence hall, when oftentimes they were the students who actually wanted to remain on-campus.

It seems that the idea behind mandating students to live on-campus for their first three years is that it helps students to stay involved in the campus community. That idea makes sense for freshman and even sophomore students. The residence halls for freshman and sophomores are not fully apartment style in that they do not have a kitchen and many of the residents interact with other students who live on their hall on a regular basis. However, once students enter the apartment style housing of upperclassmen, that engagement with other residents essentially disappears. By the time students reach a third year, they are typically already involved in enough things on campus and in the surrounding community that moving off-campus would not impact that involvement.

In order to determine student sentiment towards current CNU housing policy as well as the potential for extending the off-campus option to third year students, I conducted a narrative and phenomenological study that utilized a survey comprised of both multiple choice and open-ended questions for sixty-two CNU students. The survey was distributed through social media, specifically the CNU class Facebook pages and my own personal Facebook page. The students were asked questions related to their feelings about the current CNU housing policy, how that policy has affected them personally, and how they would feel about a change in policy.


The study’s findings were very revealing about CNU students’ attitudes towards the CNU housing policy. The majority of students felt that the three-year on-campus living requirement was unnecessary and restrictive and would enthusiastically support a change in policy that would give third-year students the option of living off-campus. There was a much greater variety in responses to the question of whether or not a change in policy would affect campus life, so the results were less conclusive.


Based on student sentiment towards the three-year on-campus living requirement, I recommend that the policy be changed to allow third-year students to move off-campus. This would lower the current levels of overcrowded rooms and residence halls, while still maintaining the more close-knit community feel for the lower classes.


During fall semester 2015, I undertook a study of student sentiment towards Christopher Newport University (CNU) housing policy, specifically towards the three-year on-campus living requirement. As an upperclassman at CNU who tried and failed to get permission for off-campus living as a third year student, I wanted to see how many other students found themselves in the same frustrating predicament and also desired a change in the CNU housing policy. In order to get information from students about their feelings towards the housing policy, I created a survey to collect student responses to questions about their experience with and feelings towards current CNU housing policy, as well as a potential change. The survey consisted of two demographic-focused questions, followed by three open-ended questions that allowed the students to give their desired length of response. Based on student responses, I recommend that CNU revise its housing policy to allow all third-year students and above the option of living off-campus.

 Key Words: housing, policy, CNU, off-campus, on-campus, third-year, junior


             In a comparison of living on and off campus linked from the CNU housing web page, an eCampusTour writer identifies isolation as one of the cons of living off-campus (eCampusTours). The idea that off-campus students experience a greater degree of isolation seems to be the basis behind the requirement that students remain living on CNU’s campus for their first three years. However, Luis Martínez-Fernández, Professor of History, University of Central Florida, posits that commuter students determine their own level of involvement in campus life (The Scoop). While I understand the potential need for students to be surrounded by their peers on campus while they adjust to living away from home, I do not believe that an extremely close-knit, large community is necessary beyond the first two years of college.

Once students have completed their first two years of college, they typically have adjusted to campus life: learning time management, joining organizations and communities outside of classes, etc. Truthfully, a student’s immediate residence hall community loses prominence after even the first year as students’ lives are filled with other activities. If a student chooses not to be involved in campus life, it is just as easy to feel isolation in the upper class residence halls, as it is to feel it off campus. The upper class residence halls are designed like off campus apartment buildings, each completely contained with its own kitchen, laundry unit, and individual bathrooms. Many upper class students never interact with the other students in their immediate residence hall because they are so involved outside of their living situation.

Therefore, I set out to find out whether or not students believed that the three year on campus living requirement was necessary or if they even supported its implementation. I wanted to find out how students felt about the current requirement, how it had affected them personally, and how they would feel about a change in CNU housing policy that would allow all third year students to move off campus if they so desired.

Theoretical Underpinnings

This study is first and foremost a phenomenological study: a method of research that investigates how a particular experience affects a group as a whole (Creswell). I chose this approach because my study looked at how the CNU housing experience affected CNU students as whole. Phenomenological studies also include how a certain group of individuals feels about a certain experience, which again was part of my exploration of CNU housing policy effects on students’. One of the philosophical underpinnings of a phenomenological study is that there are no assumptions about how the group of individuals will respond before gathering the actual responses. In designing the questions, I was careful to eliminate any language that would lead to particular answers from students. I left the questions open-ended. For example, asking the students how they felt about CNU housing policy rather than asking if they were frustrated with CNU housing policy, attempting not to make the assumption that students are generally frustrating with the housing policy. My study would fall under the transcendental or psychological phenomenological study since it focused on the description of the phenomenon rather than an interpretation of respondents’’ feelings (Creswell).

Although the study is a phenomenological study, it also applies a bit of the narrative method of study. Creswell says, “Narrative is understood as a spoken or written text giving an account of an event/action or series of events/actions, chronologically connected” (Creswell). The open-ended questions included on my survey allowed students the chance to tell the story of their experience with CNU housing over the course of their time at CNU, however long that might be. Since the narrative asks only about CNU housing experience and not any other aspect of the students’ lives, it would be classified as a personal experience narrative (Creswell).

 Research Methods

  1. I designed and distributed a five-question survey using Survey Monkey. I was able to link to my survey by posting on the CNU class Facebook pages and my own personal Facebook page. Sixty-three students responded to my survey.
  2. I used a phenomenological and narrative approach in designing my survey questions and analyzed the data collected using word clouds, feeding each individual questions’ responses through the generator and then all responses as a whole.


 Of the sixty-three respondents to my survey, the majority of those were sophomores (second-year students) and seniors (fourth-year students).


Sophomores comprised 49.21% of the sample, seniors comprised 34.92%, and juniors comprised 15.87%. In my convenience sample, I was fortunate to receive responses mainly from the two groups who have the most to say about the third year student housing policy: sophomores and seniors. Sophomores are preparing to choose housing for their third year at CNU and likely have strong opinions one way or another about the policy that requires them to live on-campus for at least one more year. Seniors have already experienced the three-year housing requirement and offer a more reflective response on the policy.

Despite having a significant percentage of senior respondents to the survey, the majority of the respondents live in on-campus housing—reflecting the influence of the three-year on-campus living requirement.


Students who live in on-campus housing comprise 77.78% of the respondents and students who live off-campus comprise 22.22%.

After the initial two demographic questions, the survey transitioned to open-ended questions, such as: What has been your experience with and/or feelings towards CNU housing policies thus far?

Some sample responses to the above question include:

  • They are unfair
  • I like it but I’m ready to move off campus
  • I think by the time I am a junior in college I should have the choice to live off campus!
  • It builds community
  • I’ve never had an issue, but I know tons of people who have


 If I were to complete my own survey, my answers would have been something like this:

  1. I am a senior at Christopher Newport University
  2. I currently live in on-campus housing
  3. My experience with CNU housing policy thus far has not been an entirely pleasant one. While I have very few complaints about the housing itself, I was denied the option of moving off-campus my third year. My appeal to housing for an exception was also denied. I was prevented from saving money and taking more personal responsibility in preparation for life post-graduation.
  4. I would fully support CNU offering the option of moving off-campus to all third year students and above. I believe that once students are upperclassmen, the on-campus living community becomes less prevalent and students should have the freedom to decide their living situation.
  5. I think that a change in policy would show an increase in satisfaction with CNU housing among students. Students enjoy the many freedoms that come with living away from their parents, so the reaction is much stronger when any form of choice freedom is threatened. A change in policy would also prevent overcrowding, with some upperclassmen this year being forced to live in sophomore dorms.

The responses to the third question on my survey, asking students about their general feelings towards the current CNU housing policy, contained a lot of diverse language, making the data from those questions difficult to pinpoint in visualization. However, the overall tone of the responses ranged mostly from indifferent to slightly dissatisfied. There were less extreme sentiments towards the current housing policy than expected. Students seemed apathetic, wishing they had other options, but resigned to complying with the policy requirements.

Despite the less extreme sentiments towards current housing policy, there were a significant number of enthusiastic responses to the potential scenario of allowing third-year students to live off-campus.


Within the sixty-three responses, the word “yes” appears eleven different times, the word “good” appears 10 different times, and the word “great” appears nine different times. The relative size of those three words compared to the rest of the words in the visualization reflect their prominence and the overwhelming positive reaction students have towards the possibility of a change in CNU housing policy.

Works Cited

Creswell, John W. “Five Qualitative Approaches to Inquiry.” Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1998. 53-84. Print.

Kosa, Aubrey. “CNU Off-Campus Option Survey.” Survey Monkey. 6 October 2015.

“Living On-campus vs. Off-campus.” ECampusTours.com. ECampusTours, 30 Apr. 2013. Web. 09 Nov. 2015. <http://www.ecampustours.com/campuslife/livingonandoffcampus/livingoncampusvsoffcampus.htm#.VkFXRWSrT-Y&gt;.

“The Scoop: Getting the Most from Commuting to College.” The Scoop. College Board, 2015. Web. 09 Nov. 2015. <https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/find-colleges/campus-life/the-scoop-getting-the-most-from-commuting-to-college&gt;.


CNU Off-Campus Option Survey

  1. What year are you at CNU?
    1. Freshman
    2. Sophomore
    3. Junior
    4. Senior
  2. Where do you currently live?
    1. On-campus
    2. Off-campus
  3. What has been your experience with and/or feelings towards CNU housing policies thus far?
  4. How would you feel about CNU extending the option to live off-campus to all junior (third year) students?
  5. How do you think the change in policy from the previous question might affect CNU students and campus life overall?

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