I work in the admissions office of a mid-size university in St. Louis, and previously worked for a small school in a small town. Residency requirements are different at most schools.
At the small town/small college I was at previously, all traditional (read: straight from HS to college) students had to live on campus or with their parents. If the students chose to live on their own, they forfeited the right to school-based financial aid. The school told students this was for their own good and b/c of a lack of decent housing in the town (pop. 1100), but the main reason was that it was waaaaay more profitable for the school to have the students on campus, paying for room and board. That school would fold in a year if it was 75% commuter (its 75% residential now).
Where I’m at now, the mid-size college in St. Louis, we have a first-year residency requirement for traditional students who don’t live in the St. Louis metro area. That makes a lot of sense to me; St. Louis is a pretty big city and having a freshman from Lick Skillet, Mississippi trying to adapt to living on their own during their freshman year could be a bit overwhelming. I should mention that while we say there is a residency requirement, if that student from Lick Skillet, MS, wants to live off-campus, we have no mechanism in place to prevent that, largely b/c we are filled to capacity every year, and if someone is willing to live off campus rather than having us rennovate a janitorial closet for them to sleep in, that’s a-ok with us.
Adult students, married students, and other people considered “independent” as far as taxes go, generally are exempt from any residency requirements, as well as people with certain medical conditions (for example, a student at the first college I worked at had an unusal diet dictated by her health, one our cafeteria could not have always provided for. She was allowed to live off-campus).
Having been a dorm-ite myself 10 years ago, and having worked with incoming college students for the past five years, I encourage all my students to consider at least a year of on-campus living. The relationships you develop, both with your school in general and the people you live with/near in particular, are priceless. Many (but certainly not all) students who commute miss out on so much by not immersing themselves in the experience. The convenience factor is obvious, as well. And while many think the price of room and board (here, for example, its $5,400/year), think of how much mom and dad and you spend on rent, food, utilities, etc., over the course of a year. If its at all affordable, I encourage all students to at least consider it.
Wooo, my longest post ever. Time for a cigarette.