Living on-campus or commuting: students weigh in


Sophie Hume

To commute or live on campus is a question most college students ask themselves at some point. Here, OU students weigh in on which they prefer.

The decision to live in OU housing or commute to campus is a tough one — one that got even tougher amid the COVID-19 pandemic, where justifying the cost in lieu of online classes felt like a no-brainer for some.

For the Chiappelli triplets — freshmen Jacob, Nick and Olivia — Jacob and Nick live at home, while Olivia lives in Oak View Hall, along with the other 1,816 students currently living on campus. The fall 2021 enrollment numbers were 17,170 students — 13,771 undergraduate and 3,399 graduate — according to OU fast facts.

This means only about 13% of undergraduate students live on campus, with the other 87% making the drive.

“I like living on campus because I’ve noticed [when OU was remote in January], I wouldn’t do anything all day,” O. Chiappelli said. “When I came back to school, I realized I’m always out doing something — I feel so much more connected to the school environment.”

Connectivity is a common theme among on-campus residents, whereas commuters often cite a lack of school spirit and tougher time getting involved.

Assistant Director for Housing Enrollment, Kelly Garnett, said living on campus comes with convenience, connection and community. Garnett also mentioned on-campus residents are statistically shown to have higher grade point averages than commuting students, and are also more likely to graduate.

“I have worked in University Housing for over a decade now, and have been amazed to see the way the students bond together to build an incredible home away from home,” Garnett said. “The residents are active in student leadership and government, engaged in student activities, athletics and organizations and are taking part in on-campus employment opportunities.”

Although living on campus comes with a plethora of positive benefits, there are certainly pros to commuting as well.

“I have a bunch of resources available to me at home that aren’t necessarily available to me at OU,” N. Chiappelli said. “For example, I can eat whenever I want — I don’t have to go to some dining hall and if it’s closed I can’t eat, I have food in my fridge. It’s definitely a lot more comfortable. It doesn’t feel very different from how it would be going to high school, which is a very comfortable experience.”

Senior Kaleigh Wright detailed how commuting allows her to manage her time the way she’d like saying, “I love the freedom and space I have with my own time. But commuting to school during the winter can be a pain with the ice and cold.”

Some students have experience living both on and off campus, such as OU sophomore Erika Head, who commuted as a freshman and now lives in Oak View Hall.

As a commuter, Head, like Wright, mentioned she had more time to do what she wanted to do off campus. For Head — that was working at Starbucks, going to her church group and traveling. She was also able to save money and put it toward purchasing her dream car.

However, Head said commuting didn’t allow her to gain independence, and she had to work extra hard to get involved and develop relationships.

“It wasn’t as easy to make friends, I really had to put myself out there,” Head said. “It is possible to feel involved on campus as a commuter if you make an effort and put yourself out there — [but] it can be easy to fall into the come to class, go home mindset.”

This year, living on campus, Head has had a great experience, but mentioned the cost is awfully steep.

According to the housing homepage on OU’s website, Hamlin Hall, Vandenberg Hall and Van Wagoner House cost $10,639 per student for fall 2021 and winter 2022 semesters combined. Hillcrest and Oak View are pricier — $11,746 and $11,190 to $11,746 respectively. Scholarships can defray the cost, and meal plans are included.

Like most things, there are certainly pros and cons to both sides — living on campus or commuting. It’s cliche, but deciding what’s right for you is the way to go.

If you’re looking to get more involved on campus, whether a housing resident or not, visit GrizzOrgs for a list of student organizations and activities.