Expanding Housing Horizons

The University plans to shake up on-campus housing.

By Caroline Levy

In case you haven’t seen the construction at 560 Lincoln St., on-campus housing is getting a makeover.

Buildings are not all that’s changing. As part of the University’s Housing Master Plan, all sophomores will be required to live on campus, though Greek housing will count toward the living requirement. The new plan could be implemented as soon as 2017, says Paul Riel, executive director of Residential Services.

The Housing Master Plan anticipates that by 2025, nine residence halls will be renovated, four demolished and five built. The plan was completed in the spring of 2014 and will be released to campus before Spring Break this year, Riel says.

ASG Student Life Vice President Chris Harlow says he thinks the living requirement “will cause a lot of stir the first two years.”

Harlow, along with other students from ASG, the Residence Hall Association and the Residential College Board, gave Residential Services input throughout the process of devising the housing plan.

“[Sophomores] are an important population to continue to support academically, socially and culturally in a residential environment,” Riel says. “The possibility exists that students will continue to do better at Northwestern if they’re living on campus their second year.”

The requirement aims to increase engagement with other students and the University more so than retention, since the latter is not a major concern at Northwestern.

On-campus housing expansion plans:
  • Sophomores required to live on-campus
  • Nine residence halls renovated
  • Four residence halls demolished
  • Five new residence halls built
  • All new buildings will be suite-style, more public indoor lounge areas
  • Riel explains that national data suggests the first two years at college are often the most important – and sometimes the most difficult – in relation to academic success. He also noted that this type of living requirement is fairly common, particularly at elite institutions. Some schools require students to live on campus for four years, but Northwestern doesn’t have enough real estate to accommodate that policy, according to Residential Services.

    All new buildings will be suite-style and will include more public indoor spaces, like lounge areas for students to spend time together, Riel says. Several existing buildings, such as Foster-Walker Complex, will be renovated to also have more lounge space.

    Still, many students move off campus because the cost of living is cheaper. Between the required meal plan for on-campus residents and the increasing cost of on-campus housing, Evanston housing will likely continue to have a cheaper price tag.

    “I don’t think structural changes alone will keep people on campus,” Harlow says.

    Weinberg senior Gina Krupp moved off campus as a sophomore. She describes the general trajectory of student living as going from on campus to off campus – and staying off.

    “It never would’ve crossed my mind to go back on campus, because I think in a sense I just graduated from being in a dorm and having an RA,” Krupp says. “There’s just a sense of autonomy that I wouldn’t want to give up since gaining it.”

    Harlow says that in addition to the new facilities, the University should develop more programming like that of residential colleges.

    In the last few years, Residential Services has developed neighborhood concepts, or groups of residence halls in an area on campus. In fall 2013, they created neighborhood desks, which cover multiple residence halls and are staffed 24/7 by RAs or community service officers.

    The social community within neighborhoods will largely be up to students to create and maintain.

    “We’re trying to really allow the populations that live there to define how they establish community,” Riel says. “We really want those populations to manage that.”

    As construction continues, Riel says students will be invited to the buildings and encouraged to provide feedback on the layouts.

    “Students’ input is important because they will be using and living in the buildings,” Riel says. “They’ll be engaged all the way through the process.”

    Photo by Thomas Molash. Illustration by Vasiliki Valkanas