The majority of college students commute to school (Horn & Berktold, 1998). Despite this, the idea of “going away to college” remains the prominent image in the head’s of Americans. Movies and television set in a college environment almost always show the students living in dorms.
It is true that more freshmen live in on-campus dormitories. One reason for this is that some schools make this on-campus living a requirement for attendance. The reason for this policy could be to help encourage a higher level of student involvement. Another theory is that the colleges want to make more money. Whatever the reason, many students do live in dorms and some stay there for their entire college career.
Students who choose not to live in on-campus dorms are called “commuter students.” What is a commuter student, exactly? Well, a commuter college student is a student who doesn’t live in on-campus housing. Situations vary greatly for the commuter student population.
Many commuter college students live at home with their parents. When attending a local college, this is often a “practical” and financially wise decision. Some parents who are not ready for “their babies” to grow up pressure their children into staying at home during their time in college.
Some students do not live in the dorms because they live with a significant other. Some students have children. Most colleges have special housing for married students and those with children; this type of housing is often limited and hard to come-by. Plus, un-married couples do not have this option available to them. If a couple have been living together for any length of time and one partner starts college, they are most likely not going to want to regress to separate living quarters.
Clearly, there are many reasons that college students commute to school. Sometimes it is by choice, while other times uncontrollable circumstances do not allow such a “traditional” college living experience.
Perhaps over time, as the entertainment industry realizes that so many students commute, more television shows and movies will reflect this lifestyle. One day, the image in the heads of Americans will not be that of “going away to college,” while living in a dorm. Perhaps the more common life of a college student will prevail.
Commuter students are not a “lesser” form of college student, as is sometimes implied. These students simply have other things in their lives to attend to and cannot devote every moment to their college experience.
George D. Kuh, Robert M. Gonyea, Megan Palmer “National Survey of Student Engagement.” Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research and Planning. Retrieved June, 2007. http://22.214.171.124/search?q=cache:-3YtF9SgqMsJ:nsse.iub.edu/pdf/commuter.pdf+who+are+commuter+students%3F&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=26&gl=us.