‘In the near future, the residential college experience will become a luxury item’

by Grace

Joanne Jacobs predicts the residential college experience will soon be out of reach for most students.

In the near future, the residential college experience will become a luxury item, I predict. Most people will decide it makes more sense to hang out with their friends, play beer pong, root for a professional football team and earn a low-cost career credential.

This quote comes from a post where Jacobs wrote about Michael Gibson’s perspective on the four elements of a traditional college experience.

  1. Academic — study time
  2. Tribal membership — loyalty to an institution
  3. Friends, community, and network
  4. Status that comes with being identified as an alumnus of a particular school

Although he foresees significant changes for higher education, Gibson isn’t quite sure how these elements will “crumble”, recognizing that “the bonds of tribe, status, and friendship are very strong”.  The academic element may be the easiest to replace, with new options enabled by technology,

How do you replace the status bestowed by a traditional college degree?

Time will tell if the loyalty, community, and status that college students seek will be continue to command high tuition prices, or will be obtained by other less costly methods.  Is status the most important benefit a college now offers?  It depends.  Many graduates value their college friendships and networks the most.   However, status would seem to be the most difficult element to replace if college no longer offers it.  As suggested by Jacobs, even without college I can find like-minded friends and a professional football team to support.



7 Comments to “‘In the near future, the residential college experience will become a luxury item’”

  1. I think the idea that all 18 year olds go away to college and live in dorms is pretty recent. Back in my day, most kids from my HS went to college while living at home. My current university is still largely a commuter school, and 15 years ago, was all-commuter. I think it will be easy enough to revert back to the older model.


  2. I was under the impression that the fraction of students in dorms had dropped over the past 30 years, but I don’t have any statistics.

    It is certainly true that college is wasted on students who are just there for beer and football—students looking for science and engineering education, or intelligent discussions in the humanities will still find it easier at residential colleges than living at home.


  3. I couldn’t find numbers on percentages of college students living at home over the last 30 years, but I suspect it’s fluctuated, and is now on a downward trend. In the past a higher percent of college students came from the upper classes and probably moved away from home to attend. As more students from the lower SES groups enrolled, it seems likely that more lived at home.

    I think many mid-upper class families think more about the “beer and football” aspect of the residential college experience that they will be denying their children who stay home, but it’s the academic/intellectual community aspects that should be recognized as well.

    Well, not even the “intellectual” community, but the benefit of getting to live among your fellow students can be very valuable. But it’s just becoming out of reach for many families.


  4. I had a hard time finding like-minded friends until leaving home and going to college. I wasn’t looking for beer and football though!

    Most of the mid-upper class parents that I know are thinking about their kids having the chance to learn deeply and find friends with whom they have something more in common than a zip code.


  5. It is definitely more common now for traditional age students. Look at the nationwide trend for former commuter schools, and even CCs, to build dorms. I can think of so many examples here in the NYC metro area. Also, the regional state U system where I used to teach only started adding dorms in the early 90’s. It is also far more common now for kids to go out of state to college.

    The statistics may be muddy, though, because there has also been huge growth in the numbers of nontraditional, older students who of course are living at home.


  6. Look at this – more CCs offering on campus housing


  7. I didn’t even realize community colleges had dorms!


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