GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP _ Stockton University freshman Samantha Sandhoff could commute to class from her home in Cape May.
But she really wants the full college experience of living on campus and fully participating in the college community.
So on Wednesday her father, Patrick, and her younger sister, Hope, helped the physical therapy major move into her dorm room, lugging clothing, a comforter and coffee maker up the stairs into the room she will share with a roommate she has yet to meet.
“I just loved how welcoming the campus was,” Sandhoff said of her choice to attend and live at Stockton. “I didn’t want a big campus. And it is close to home.”
While the rising cost of college and student debt remain national concerns, a large number of students are still choosing to live on campus, adding thousands of dollars for room and board to their annual total cost of attendance.
Rowan University this year opened and filled a new residence hall, the 1,145-bed Holly Pointe Commons.
Stockton is leasing space for 91 students on nearby Chris Gaupp Road to handle overflow, and plans housing for about 500 students at its new Atlantic City campus. Last year the college leased a motel on Route 30 to accommodate all residential students.
In 2011 Montclair University opened The Heights adding almost 2,000 beds.
For some families, the lower cost of tuition and fees at a state college compared to a private college is the tradeoff that allows them to afford room and board. Getting scholarships to cover tuition and fees can also make it possible to live on campus.
But the cost is not cheap. At a public state college in New Jersey, room and board can cost almost as much as tuition and fees, which last year averaged more than $13,000. That is still far less than the average $35,000 cost for tuition and fees at a private college in the state.
Most state colleges offer a range of room and board plans. At Stockton, housing options range from a low of about $6,800 a year for a small double or triple to as much as $10,500 a year for a single room. Meal plans add another $2,000 to $4,000 a year.
Patrick Sandhoff said they did discuss the finances, but ultimately let Samantha decide. He said they see the move as a learning opportunity for her to become part of a new community and take on more personal responsibility.
“I think she should have this opportunity,” he said. “But she does have friends who are commuting due to the cost.”
Samantha and freshman Juliann Gee of Cinnaminson both play sports and said living on campus made more sense for them to accommodate practice and team activities. Gee also looks forward to making new friends and becoming part of a college community.
Gee’s mom, Karen, said it has been a bit overwhelming, but she sees living on campus as an important live experience for her daughter.
Stockton president Harvey Kesselman said he is glad the campus is so welcoming and they want a student’s college career to include more than just classes. But commuter students still make up a large percentage of undergraduates and the college works to accommodate both.
According to information from student housing, there are 2,947 students living in Stockton housing this fall, about 40 percent of the undergraduate population of about 7,800.
Almost 6,000 of Rowan’s more than 13,000 undergraduates will live on campus, including even a couple from Rowan’s hometown of Glassboro.
Travis Douglas, assistant vice president for residential learning and inclusion at Rowan, said the new Holly Pointe Commons includes 649 freshmen and was designed to promote interaction among students. He said student housing provides the best of both worlds – some independence for students, but also a safe and secure environment for concerned parents.
Students can use financial aid to pay for housing, though in the case of loans, those funds will have to be paid back after graduation, which for some students may mean moving back home.
Staff writer, education