The campus of TCU has undergone many recent changes, including a new education complex, an indoor practice facility and two new residence halls. Soon the university will also have a new student union and two more residence halls, but the long-term impact these changes will have on the surrounding neighborhoods is less clear.One factor that could play a large role in the changing dynamic between TCU and the surrounding neighborhoods is last year’s decision by the TCU Board of Trustees to require sophomores to live on campus.
Whether last year’s change in the housing requirements was a contributing factor to this recent change in the neighborhoods remains unclear.
Since 2003, more than 50 percent of the undergraduate population at TCU has lived off campus, according to the Institutional Research office.
While the number of students who live on campus has remained between 43 percent and 47 percent since 2003, the undergraduate enrollment has increased, keeping the ratio of on-campus to off-campus students relatively stable. Despite the requirement that sophomores live on campus and the recent completion of two new residence halls, the number of students who move off campus has remained fairly constant, with 54 percent of TCU’s undergraduate students choosing to live off campus.
The new residence halls are part of a larger project aimed at transforming TCU into a residential community.
“We’ve been discussing ways of housing more students on campus for several years now. The new residence halls are the manifestation of those discussions,” Chancellor Victor Boschini said. “In the past 20 years, the school has grown population-wise, but not bed-wise.”
Boschini said the decision to require more students to live on campus will help enhance the TCU experience.
“We will make you a more well-rounded individual with a world view, both intellectually and spiritually,” Boschini said.
Don Mills, vice chancellor for student affairs added that another positive aspect of a residential campus was that TCU would become a pedestrian campus. Mills said research has shown that pedestrian campuses create a healthier environment for both students and faculty, and that interaction on campus would be more likely to occur.
The transformation to a residential campus addresses many of the university’s concerns, as well as those of neighborhood associations, such as the University West Neighborhood Association.
Mills said “All neighborhood concerns were considered when we made our plans and neighborhoods were informed as we went about the planning of the facilities.”
Among the concerns of those residents living near campus were noise, trash, property upkeep and property values, Mills said.
The change in housing requirements separates TCU from other private universities in the state. Rice, Baylor and Southern Methodist University only require freshmen to live on campus, though some on-campus housing at Baylor does require students to sign a two-year contract if students wish to live there.
Both Mills and Boschini said Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., was one of the universities TCU used as a model for its shift to a residential community.
According to the Vanderbilt Student handbook, “All unmarried undergraduate students, except those who live at home with their parents or legal guardians in Davidson County, must live in residence halls on campus during the academic year, May session, and summer sessions.”
Realtors in the TCU area believe the new housing requirements have not had a profound impact on the area.
“I still do a lot of business with TCU students,” said Carl Montgomery, of Carl Montgomery Realtors. “TCU seems to think there is a move back to living on campus, but all the students I talk to want their own place. Even though sophomores are now required to stay on campus, there are still plenty of juniors and seniors looking to move off campus.”
The long-term implications of more students living on campus, Mills said, is that it would “include more student satisfaction, an enriched student experience and a focus on campus services.”
However, what seems to be the biggest drawback in the eyes of students is the cost of living on campus for another year.
Jake Fowler, a sophomore business major, said the new housing requirement was unreasonable.
“I don’t think it’s fair that we’re required to stay on campus so TCU can fill up dorms it thinks it needs. Living off campus is much cheaper, and the money I’m required to pay for food and housing could be going toward my tuition.”
Nate Dwelle, a sophomore radio-TV-film major, said the new housing requirements were not as important as some people were making them out to be.
“I think living on campus beyond your freshman year should be strongly encouraged, but not a requirement,” he said.