Get cheaper campus housing for good grades

February 13, 2008 5:19:54 PM PST
Maintaining good grades soon will help students save money on housing at the University of Oklahoma. Hoping to encourage more students to live on campus, OU announced Wednesday it plans to offer rebates on university housing for upper-class and graduate students in exchange for academic achievement.

University officials said the OU Academic Success program will be the first of its kind among schools in the Big 12 Conference and a national expert in student housing said he's never heard of such a plan being used at any college anywhere.

"A great university is a true community where people of many different backgrounds and academic interests get to know each other and form bonds of friendship and mutual respect," OU President David Boren said in a statement. "Living together in the residence halls helps promote this ideal."

Under the program, high-performing sophomores, junior and seniors who live on campus will receive a rebate at the end of each semester on the basis of the student's grade-point average at the start of the semester.

The rebates will range from $100 per semester to $400 per semester, depending on the student's GPA. The minimum GPA required to receive a rebate is 3.25.

The program will begin with this year's fall semester.

Amanda Hearn, a spokeswoman for OU's housing and food services offices, said the current cost for a room in the university's "most common residence hall option" is $1,941 per semester, not including a meal plan. Rent for a 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment at OU's Traditions Square is $480 per month, based on a 9-month contract.

Hearn said the current occupancy rate at OU's residence halls is 91 percent. At Traditions Square, it is 92 percent. Both numbers have risen since last year, she said.

"We want students living on campus ... to focus on their academic and personal development," Bill Henwood, OU's director of housing and food services, said in a statement.

Henwood cited the availability to on-campus residents of 24-hour monitored, quiet study areas, free tutoring and faculty-in-residence families. He said OU is one of the few public universities in the U.S. that has faculty families who live in the residence halls, which he said is done in an effort "to help promote lasting intergenerational friendships."

Norb Dunkel, the director of housing and residence education at the University of Florida and president-elect of the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International, said he knows of universities that offer rebates for rent, but none that tie those rebates to academics.

"I think there probably would be some merit in it," said Dunkel, whose group provides central oversight for campus housing in 22 countries and represents more than 900 member institutions. "It's connecting the academic community to the residential setting, and whenever you do that, it will be beneficial to the students."

Hearn credited Boren with coming up with the idea of tying housing rebates to academic success.

OU policy states that single freshmen under 20 years of age must live in university housing, with exceptions made for those who have earned 24 or more hours of college credit in residence or have already lived in university residence halls for two academic semesters.

OU also routinely grants exemptions to that rule for students who live within 50 miles of the campus.

Boren said students who live on campus typically have "substantially" higher grade-point averages and graduation rates than those who live off campus.

Dunkel agreed with that assessment, saying such students "have a higher rate of matriculation to graduation. We know their grade-point averages are going to be higher and their psychosocial skills will be higher. There is a natural mechanism built into on-campus housing that suggests they will do better than students who live off-campus."