Thursday, September 16, 2021

ASMSU hosts 2 year live-on requirement presentation, student representatives react

February 1, 2021
Outside of Hubbard Hall on Aug. 11, 2020.
Outside of Hubbard Hall on Aug. 11, 2020. —
Photo by Annie Barker | The State News

The Associated Students of Michigan State University (ASMSU) had their first General Assembly meeting of the new semester Thursday, Jan. 21.

The evening began with a presentation from Senior Vice President for Residential and Hospitality Services and Auxiliary Enterprises Vennie Gore and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Mark Largent to discuss the two-year legal requirements.

The second-year live-on requirement at MSU is precisely what it sounds like; what was called the sophomore year waiver, a waiver that allowed sophomores to live off-campus if they so choose, the board ultimately decided to remove, thus requiring sophomores to live on campus a second year. 

Largent began the presentation by introducing Amy Martin, assistant dean for student success operations, noting that she is a critical part of a lot of the work being done to fundamentally change some of the policies, procedures and practices at MSU to bring them in line with what both Largent and Martin’s research with MSU data shows and what published research nationally shows to support students in an equitable, fair and successful way. 

The first reason why MSU implemented the two-year live-on requirement was the strong correlation between students living on campus a second year and student success. 

However, with a simple correlation, there could be a selection bias in the data, meaning that the kinds of students who are more likely to live on campus are also the kinds of students who might be more likely to persist and graduate, but there cannot be causality without correlation. When researchers see a correlation, they dig into it to ask if there is, in fact, a causal basis for it, Largent said. 

Secondly, researchers saw a grossly disproportionate impact among groups of students.

Largent said that the subgroups of students at MSU have the highest opportunity gaps — the largest difference between the average of that subgroup and the university’s average — those students saw the biggest difference in choosing to live on campus for their sophomore year. 

MSU’s overall university graduation rate is 81.3%. In that, 81.3% of the students who started at MSU in 2014 graduated by 2020. Six years ago, MSU’s graduation rate was at 77%, which means that every year since then, the graduation rate has risen by one percentage point, and that is because of focusing on student success efforts, Largent said. 

Putting this into perspective, this means that 1,400 former students who have bachelor’s degrees would not have had them. Every year, 230 people would leave MSU with a degree instead of without one. 

With a $2.2 million lifetime earning difference, there is a massive difference in individuals’ lives and their family’s lives, Largent said.

"If there is a two and a half percentage point difference and there is a causal relationship, more importantly, in the groups with the biggest opportunity gaps, … it’s those very students that we saw the greatest positive impact for living on campus," he said. "When that gap opens and persistence, it opens in precisely the sophomore year. The two and a half percentage point gap between the students who are and are not living on campus opens right during that sophomore year, and it stays consistent going forward."

Several Ph.D. researchers with statistics and research analytics conducted a matched student analysis of hundreds of thousands of students who did and did not live on campus for two years at MSU. Researchers could demonstrate a casual relationship of living on campus with matched analysis and having better persistence of better graduation rates, according to Largent. 

Lastly, the neighborhood experience and having a whole suite of student support services when living on campus is an important part of student success, and MSU plans to extend that for two full years, he said.

The argument is that if a student can return to MSU after their sophomore year, a student feels a sense of affinity to MSU and landmarks such as Wells Hall, the Breslin Center and Beaumont Tower, then those things will resonate with the student, and they will feel a sense of belonging. Additionally, if a student feels that other students and faculty have their back, there is an intellectual engagement to graduate, he said.

MSU graduation rates for students who come back for their junior years are more than 94%, according to Largent.

Many were questioning whether or not MSU had the capacity to host first-and-second-year students living on campus. Gore said the university did have the necessary capacity. 

Another concerning question from students was about the cost of living. MSU’s current all-inclusive rate right now is $10,522 for one year that roughly comes out to about $1,235 a month. 

Gender-inclusive housing was also another request. The flexible housing option, officially renamed as gender-inclusive housing, and it will be part of the sign-up process coming in the next couple of weeks. 

At the end of the presentation, ASMSU representatives had their own questions and concerns, including costs of living, student input and how to measure and meet demand.

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The novel coronavirus pandemic has caused a lot of financial struggle for students, let alone the continuously increasing costs of college, ASMSU Rep. Aaron Iturralde said.

Gore responded with the need for stability and a sense of community for, especially, the first-year students who will be coming to MSU in the fall.  

Largent said that "financial aid and the cost of attendance is predicated on on-campus living and the on-campus dining plan. It is less expensive to live in certain kinds of situations off-campus, but the vast majority of our students do not live in those certain situations."

The job of MSU is to provide the best education and the best chance of persisting graduating, Largent said. 

ASMSU Rep. Aubrey Hanes questioned why students are not more involved in consulting university decisions such as the one presented, in which Gore responded that MSU is making an effort to talk to various groups and that the university could have done better in the consulting process. 

Additionally, James Madison College Rep. Gawyn Webb asked why MSU does not advertise the idea and benefits of a two-year live-on requirement instead of forcing it on students, in which Gore said it is about student success. 

Largent also said that MSU has to work at a policy level to make the best decisions for the greatest number of students. 

Gore said that if MSU is receiving more demand for space in the residence halls, then the university will adjust to meet those demands. 

Current exception criteria of first-year students still exist and they will continue to exist in the future. 

Three of the 14 Big Ten schools have a two-year live-on requirement currently: Michigan State, Ohio State and Northwestern. Other schools are expected to move in a similar direction and make announcements as soon as within the next 24 months.

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