Does Living On Campus Help Students?


In an effort to both improve students’ qualities of life and compete for students, many universities have utilized on-campus housing requirements to provide increased support to students. By requiring that students live in residence halls or dorms, universities can ensure that students have greater opportunities to connect with the university and can more directly provide support to struggling students.

The rising interest in student well-being is demonstrated through university spending habits. Universities expenditures have consistently risen as a percentage of total university expenditures since 2003, and this implies that universities are concurrently decreasing the share of spending for other university expenditures. This change is illustrated in the graph below.

In addition to altruistic concern for student well-being, universities are increasingly competing for students as well.

Methods and Data

To address the question of how on-campus housing requirements have impacted students, I estimate a regression model of the following form:

$$Y_{it} = \beta_{0} + \beta_{1}HouseReq_{it} + \boldsymbol{X}_{it} + \varepsilon_{it}$$

For each university \(i\) and year \(t\), the outcome variable \(Y\) represents universities’ graudation rates, \(HouseReq\) is the length of the housing requirement, and \(\boldsymbol{X}\) is a vector of university characteristics.

To estimate this equation, I use data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). This database provides graduation rates as well as university characteristics for all U.S. universities. In addition, I collected housing requirement data from university webpages. A summary of these data as well as sources can be found in the raw data on GitHub.


The results of the estimates of the regression above are summarized in the table below:

Dependent Variable: Log Graduation Rate
(1) (2) (3)
Housing Requirement \(0.0355^{***}\) \(0.0337^{***}\) \(0.0172^{***}\)
Auxiliary Spending \(-0.0276^{***}\) \(0.0327^{***}\)
Student Spending \(0.0427^{***}\) \(0.0436^{***}\)
Instruction Spending \(0.0472^{***}\) \(0.0267^{***}\)
Private -0.0144
Bed-Enrollment Ratio \(0.0182\)
Total Undergraduates \(-0.0829^{***}\)
Local 2BR Cost \(0.00681\)
Observations 1,207 886 714
\(R^{2}\) 0.076 0.303 0.515

The results in the table above indicate that the length of the housing requirement is positively correlated with graduation rates. Notably, different types of university spending are also correlated with graduation rates, as well as the total number of students at the institution. These results are limited by a small sample size, but they provide suggestive evidence that longer on-campus housing requirements do have positive effects on students.


In this paper, I find that longer on-campus housing requirements do have positive effects on student graduation rates. This study is limited by the small number of universities in this study as well as the lack of granularity in the data, but these results suggest that on-campus housing requirements are good for students. Universities should take this into account as they endeavor to improve outcomes for students. For more information, read the paper here and the code here.