If college students live in dormitories are they more likely to graduate? Apparently some colleges are now betting that this might work. According to an article by Lekan Oguntoyinbo in Diverse Issues in Higher Education:

Many urban and commuter universities have their sights set on…young, vulnerable first-generation students unlikely to connect with the college and likely to fail unless the right strategies are put in place to help them graduate. These schools are using residence halls as a means of retaining students who may be underprepared and overwhelmed by college, getting them more engaged with the university and boosting academic performance.

This means that small, underfunded schools, commuter colleges, are now building dorms to try and keep kids in school. According to the article:

For much of the past 10 or 15 years, many universities have jumped into the residence hall business or expanded their residential offerings. Queens College in Queens, N.Y., opened its first residence hall in the fall of 2009. Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis has been steadily expanding its residential offerings and hopes to double the number of on-campus students over the next several years.

Does it work? It’s a little hard to tell. While college administrators say that they’re building dormitories to “eliminate distractions” and cause more students to graduate, at least at regular colleges dormitories are more often the cause of distractions from studying.

One problem with this particular graduation rate improvement strategy is that the cost of college is actually one of the major reasons unprepared students drop out. Dorms add room and board costs to the total college bill. Is it worth it for students?

There are probably some more important, and cheaper, ways for colleges to improve graduation rates.

As former George Washington University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg pointed out to me last year, however, is that dormitories help create a sense of community on a college campus. That does eventually help improve college graduation rates. Perhaps more importantly, it also can help perk up alumni participation. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer