The number of students living on campus at ETSU has decreased since last school year. 

According to the Department of Housing and Residence Life, for fall 2016, ETSU has 2,726 residents, which is 103 fewer residents than the 2,829 residents ETSU had last fall.

The occupancy generally mirrors the university enrollment. There are still the same number of dorms on campus. One factor that has changed is freshmen must have a meal plan if they are living on campus, excluding the Buccaneer Ridge apartments. The cheapest meal plan a student can have is $1,675.

Bonnie Burchett, director of housing and residence life, does not believe that the required meal plan has had an effect on the number of students living on campus. 

“We do not think that the required meal plan for new incoming freshmen, except for Buc Ridge, has had any significant impact on our first-year student occupancy,” Burchett said. “Last fall, 59 percent of the first-year students lived on campus as compared to 58 percent this fall. There are fewer first-year students enrolled this year as compared to last year. We found this summer as we talked to new incoming students and their parents about the new dining concept that they were very receptive and excited about the program.”

Lauryn Lewis, a senior at ETSU, believes the meal plan is unfair.

“I chose to live in Centennial because the dorm has a kitchen and I could cook and store my own food,” Lewis said.  “It’s just another way to dig us deeper into college debt. I personally had to pay $1,700 out of my pocket, but I only eat about a third of what I spent.”

Burchett hopes to increase the number of students living on campus in the next few years. 

“There is general agreement that we would like to increase the number of students living on campus,” Burchett said. “We are getting ready to conduct a marketing study for housing and residence life as part of the campus master plan. Part of the study would be to explore the possibility of a residency requirement for first-year students living outside of a certain radius of campus. We will review the impact of Tennessee Promise, as there may be more transfer students needing on-campus housing next year.”

Elena Lawitzke, a sophomore living on campus who also lived on campus as a freshman, believes this is great idea. 

Enforcing students to live on campus freshman year will be beneficial to the student’s social life, grades and bring more money into the school, thus benefiting both the students and the university,” Lawitzke said. 

In 2010, the University of Northern Iowa published statistics on their Department of Residence page showing that students living on campus were almost twice as likely to make the Dean’s List.

However, there are students who believe living off campus benefits them more. Colleen Sharkey, a sophomore this year, chose to live on campus last year as an out-of-state student, but this year resides in an off-campus apartment. 

“I still felt like a kid living on campus,” Sharkey said. “I moved off campus to gain more responsibility and learn more as an adult. Plus, there were way too many fire drills.”