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BREAKING: Freshmen housing requirement ‘dead’

The proposal that would force first time in college freshmen to live on campus starting Fall 2015 is “dead” after opposition from Texas Senator and UH alum John Whitmire.

“The university has assured me that it has been taken off the table and is dead,” Whitmire said. “I will continue to monitor it and take whatever steps are necessary to see that it never gets any life again.”

Whitmire said he found out about the proposal from a text message that Chancellor Renu Khator sent him. After an exchange, Khator told him that UH would no longer consider the plan.

According to the original plan, waivers to appeal the mandatory housing would be available to freshmen that demonstrate financial difficulty, medical or ADA need or have a reason that deems it counterproductive for them to live on campus. The requirement would not apply to students who live with a parent or legal guardian within 20 miles of campus or to students who are married or have a child.

Whitmire, who graduated from UH in 1975, lived in an apartment with his mother and worked to help pay the rent during college. He is primarily concerned with the added costs freshmen would face if required to live on campus.

“A large number of UH students happen to work,” Whitmire said. “It would make it much, much more difficult for them to work if they depended on other support systems at home, like siblings or parents.”

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  • If individuals want to work and commute to school, they should attend UHD or UHCL. This measure was needed to truly secure UH as a traditional, 4 year institution. The term “commuter school” will continue to follow us.

  • As an alum and a former employee, this is extremely disappointing to me – another example of a politician opposing something they don’t understand, this time based off the intricacies of a text message. I’d highly recommend to all of you who agree to contact Senator Whitmire at his office and let them know how you feel:
    The Honorable John Whitmire
    P.O. Box 12068
    Capitol Station
    Austin, Texas 78711
    (512) 463-0115

    803 Yale Street
    Houston, Texas 77007
    (713) 864-8701

    The idea that UH is basically condemned to a perpetuity of almost relevance thanks to one alumnus who in no way speaks for us all is ridiculous to me. Please, join me in calling his office and letting them know how most of us coogs feel.

    • The school should not be able to force students to live on campus. Thank you Senator Whitmire for allowing students to make choices themselves. I will call your office and will support your next reelection bid.

      P.S. I would like to see statistics supporting claim below that commuters are doing worse academically than students living on campus.


        TL;DR: Freshmen and sophomores especially benefit from an on-campus living experience. UH would only be requiring students outside a 20-mile radius to live on, and people would be able to get exemptions based off financial hardship.

        Thanks for your continued support of mediocrity.

        • Need more detailed statistics than just overall gpa. See:

          “In general, commuter students were more likely to be working than those who lived on campus, which has been shown to have a negative impact on student persistence (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005).”

          Requirement to live on-campus would shut out lower middle class from getting an affordable education. These are people who work and study at the same time.

          Thank you for being elitist and not understanding that most people are not born with a silver foot in their mouth and that they do not have unlimited supply of money. Quality education should not be limited to rich people.

          • This only would affect students living outside of a 20-mile radius. Assuming we go off the state’s mileage cost estimate of 56 cents per mile (to cover gas + vehicle wear and tear), a student commuting from, say, Spring (just 25 miles away), three days a week is looking at a vehicle cost of roughly $1200 a semester and almost an hour commute each way at peak hours. That’s over halfway to a double in the Moody Towers just for them to get to and from campus and it’s six hours a week you’re not spending working, sleeping, or studying. Even if you’re living with mom and dad, the cost/benefit on that gets fuzzy.

            I know in one of the Kuh studies he controlled for things like employment and noted that on-campus employment has a much more positive trend when it comes to GPA than off-campus enrollment does.

            Realistically, if you’re trying to financially support yourself through college, you don’t want to come to UH as an FTIC freshman anyway. It makes way, WAY more financial sense to knock out your core classes at a local community college and then transfer in as a sophomore/junior. You’ll still be able to participate in the vast majority of the programs (even Honors) and you’ll save hundreds of dollars a class for basic stuff like college algebra and freshman comp.

            If we’re trying to protect some ideal of what UH should be, then maybe the argument of shooting down the live-on requirement makes sense. But if we’re actually trying to be a Tier One institution with degrees that are actually worth something when we graduate, our current path only takes us so far.

            • Thanks for a thoughtful answer.

              I have also read that on-campus employment is beneficial to success rates. However, there will not be enough jobs for 40K students.

              I do not know the prices at Moody Towers, but they are the oldest and probably cheapest dorms. Old car will not cost 56 cents per mile. It seems that the only real issue is time spent commuting.

              Classes at community college makes sense in some cases, but not in others. Many students will fail at UH after taking introductory classes at community colleges where grading is easier. Consequently, they will end up paying more (retaking classes and paying several times), + having poor grades on transcript.

              I do not think UT Austin requires freshmen to live on campus, and they have alumni loyalty and first-rate nearly everything. I do not see how UH freshmen living on campus will have a large impact on our research, teaching, and alumni loyalty. We should improve teaching and research, treat students better (helpful financial office staff would be more beneficial for alumni loyalty than 100% of students living on campus), and try to keep university affordable while doing that.

              • The 56 cents a mile figure is a ballpark, but it’s inclusive of things like routine maintenance. You’re not going to be carrying a note on a 2002 Ford Focus, but you might have to deal with its timing belt snapping on the 59 feeder while you’re on the way home with a lady after a really good third date (so in addition to the financial costs of the repair, you have the additional emotional cost of missed opportunities). I digress.

                The 40K enrollment number is a little deceptive. Roughly a quarter in any given year are grad students, and a pretty significant percentage are also evening/weekend students. I’m not saying we have 7,000 jobs on campus so every enrolled freshman can get one, but the ones with financial need almost always are able to swing work-study jobs.

                This report is from Cal Berkeley which is a little bit of a different campus culture so the community college success rates aren’t a perfect analogue (both freshmen and transfers have a 90-ish % grad rate), but it at least touches on your question with as much cursory research as I could be bothered to do before heading to the kitchen to grab a Pabst:

                The last thing I’d note is Austin has a smaller metropolitan area than Houston does*. When I was at UH, I lived on campus for a few years but also lived off. I think the difference between living in the Heights, or Montrose (until they finish gentrifying it) or even Westchase versus living on campus isn’t insurmountable. It’s the people who would otherwise be facing an hourlong commute and the ensuing issues from that who are affected.

                I hate to say it as a rah-rah UH booster, but UH still has that major perception problem of being a commuter school and the metaphorical “new kid on the block”. When I moved into Taub Hall 10 years ago as a freshman, UH was decent but it was very much the school a lot of students went to when they couldn’t swing UT or A&M. I think A&M and UT are in a spot where they can stay in a holding pattern to keep their prestige. UH, on the other hand, I think still needs to do something. If we can’t require students to live on campus we’ll find something else, but it’s the kind of policy that can make a big difference.

                *and somehow manages worse traffic. Every freeway there is just terrible. It’s like someone made a bet with an urban planner that traffic couldn’t be worse than 610 at 59 during rush hour

          • Shut out lower middle class from getting an affordable education? There are numerous institutions in the greater metro area where freshman can obtain their required basic courses and then transfer to the UH Main Campus to complete their degree. Besides, I am pretty sure when we were investigating for my son recently the tuition is lower than UH. My husband lived at home and completed his freshman courses at a fraction of the cost of the tuition at the institution he then transferred to the TX public university for the remainder of his time as a student to obtain his degree.

  • Surely the senator knows nothing about student success. Students commuting more than 20 miles face a considerable hardship and will continue to have a negative affect on our graduation rates.

  • Whitmire just killed a major opportunity for the university to advance and steer away from being a “commuter school”. This only goes to show that the state senator has not been paying any attention at all whatsoever to the advances the unviersity has made. And shame on Dr. Khator for throwing her hands up and not fighting the good fight. First time I have been disappointed in the UH president since she has taken over. This is why we have created the Branch Campuses.

  • Thank you Sen Whitmire, as the voice of reason. Making UH into a high dollar University is not what UH needs. Keep it affordable, keep it accessible!

    • Do you not understand that the satellite campuses are filling that niche? The UH System is investing heavily in UHCL and UHSL to build them up and have them offer more programs.. No one that sees the positive changes happening at Main Campus right now is against this mandate.

    • UH now vs. UH 5, 10, 25 years ago is like night and day. The university is becoming a world class institution. The satellite campuses have been built up to fill this role of “affordable institution”. The problem here is that no one seems to understand this. UH needs to be more selective to advance (better students better university), to be more attractive to better students you need to be ranked more highly, to be ranked more highly GRADUATION RATE MUST IMPROVE AND YOU MUST HAVE A BETTER SENSE OF CAMPUS COMMUNITY. This was was a major step in the right direction. Would certain people be excluded from the UH experience going forward,?absolutely. Prestigious universities are selective, that’s what creates value in the degree.

  • With all due respect Senator, UH is long removed from 1975 and the current student body, from what I understand, is on board with this. The University of Houston aims to grow past an over-looked “commuter school” and we would like for people all over the world to look at our degrees with an understanding that it holds value. We are excited that Renu Khator is taking these steps to try and move the university forward. I don’t know you or your politics, but I can assure you, you’ll never gain my support if this is how you handle any attempt at progression.

  • Is our President really so weak that one State Senator can derail an important aspect of her plan to build the University?

  • What’s with the outrage behind this? UH is, was, and will forever be for the working-class as that was the original aim and intent of the school…to serve the children of Houston’s working class.

    Just because we have a large commuter population doesn’t take away from our academics.

    Also if you REALLY want to make things better get rid of the ghetto that is surrounding UH.

  • As an alum and a UH employee…the idea of paying for my college age daughter to live on campus should be a CHOICE not something we are forced into. I like 32 miles away…it’s a lot cheaper for my daughter to carpool with me or commute herself. I’m glad the proposal is dead!

    • If the plan went through, she would be welcome to attend her first year at a neighboring institution and transfer over, live within 20 miles of UH (or any of the other exceptions), among other choices. Nobody is forced to go to UH as a freshman.

      Also if she commutes herself and has reasonable options (such as carpooling with you), then that would be somewhat selfish. This would add yet another car of solo driver congestion on the region’s freeways and roadways, add unnecessary pollution, etc.

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