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Commuter students share benefits, drawbacks to off-campus living

For a lot of students living on campus, it can be easy to forget how convenient it is to walk everywhere and to be close to classes and friends. Even though the walk up Jeff Hill in the winter can be daunting, students who commute usually have to block out a significant amount of time to get to campus, find a parking spot and walk to class or any other social event they may attend. 

Commuter students’ experiences are different for all, but some of the challenges they face seem to overlap as they create their college experiences. According to the Ohio University website, students who commute must live within a 50-mile radius of campus. Housing and Residence Life approves approximately 450 commuter contracts every year. 

There can also be benefits to being a commuter student to OU’s Athens campus. The baseline tuition for an in-state student per year, according to OU’s website, is $13,746, adding on to that $145 for a commuter student standard school year permit, for a total of $13,891. This number is vastly different from the baseline of $31,096, which in-state students pay for tuition and room and board. These numbers can vary based on accommodations for room and board and scholarships for on-campus students as well as possible rent and other expenses of commuter students. 

Taylor Orcutt, a sophomore studying journalism, said being a commuter student has its benefits and its drawbacks. She said she felt lucky to not have to deal with some of the homesickness some other students may feel when being away from home but that she also felt as though getting to campus could sometimes be difficult. 

“That’s a mental stress load that students who live on campus don't necessarily have,” she said. 

She said she was mostly able to allocate time for clubs due to her time management skills but that it did require extra effort to make sure it fit into her schedule and that she would be on campus for those meetings. 

“I have to intentionally make time to stay on campus and connect with classmates and participate in club meetings because once you go home, once anybody on campus goes home, they don’t want to come back, especially during the cold months,” Orcutt said. 

Samuel Robinson, a junior studying middle childhood education, said being a commuter can often be a challenge because he has to stay on campus between classes. When he has a big break, he often does not know what to do. 

“I do my homework sometimes but it’s not the best place to do it or not where I prefer to do it and so I just end up playing on my phone for an hour and a half or two hours while I wait for my next class,” he said. “It’s not always the best use of my time.”

Robinson said he has friends in his class and an education club, which makes him feel included in the school community. He said he usually works when the education club meets so he can only go to the meetings when he has time off. 

“I don't feel excluded from campus because I have friends in class,” he said. “If I didn’t have my friends in class, I would definitely feel like an outsider.” 

Zach Thomas, a junior studying early childhood education, said it’s nice staying away from dorm drama and living at home or in an apartment since the beginning of his freshman year. He said one of the disadvantages is feeling less connected to other students when it comes to activities outside of the classroom. 

“I’d have to drive 10 minutes, find a parking spot and join them, so I feel less connected,” he said. 

Thomas said when it came to killing time between classes, he has found a system that really works for him. 

“It’s been really nice since I’m an early childhood major,” he said. “Patton is my college and they have study rooms all along the second floor that have been nice for me to go and do homework.”


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