Over the years, students have filled up rooms in Cabrini’s residence halls. Nowadays, most of those rooms are empty. Even Xavier Hall, the freshman residence building, is entirely empty. The number of students living on campus has decreased in the past couple of years; since the COVID-19 pandemic, campus life hasn’t seemed very lively.
Marium Waqar, assistant director for housing and residential education at Cabrini, said, “I think that COVID-19 changed higher education altogether. It is not just Cabrini specifically, it’s higher education institutions all across the country.”
An epidemic in higher education
Kevin Brenzel, assistant director of resident housing operations at Cabrini, said, “I just came from a school in Connecticut, and our numbers were down as well.”
The National Conference of State Legislatures, NCSL, said the coronavirus pandemic majorly disrupted higher education institutions nationwide, causing many students to leave campus and take their classes virtually. Two years later, students are still hesitant to return to campus living.
The pandemic most likely caused a lot of higher education-aged people not to want to attend college, decreasing the number of people within that age-group population that are looking to attend college or are currently enrolled in college.
“The number of students that are at the college age is less than what it has been in the past,” said Brenzel.
However, Waqar said she and the faculty have seen an increase in students wanting to live on campus now that the pandemic restrictions are coming to an end. “We’re starting to slowly go into a new norm. The pandemic is nowhere near over, but we’re also not where we once used to be,” Waqar said.
Rise in tuition and safety precautions
Another reason students don’t want to live on campus is due to the rising cost of tuition. Kyra DePersia, Cabrini financial aid counselor, said, “it may be due to cost or if students live close by, it’s easier for them to commute. Then, they don’t have to pay for off-campus housing or on-campus housing.”
In addition, DePersia believes that students are cautious about paying off student loans, and the cost of living after graduation. “I’ve only been in the field for about three years, but it just seems over those three years,
students have been trying to be as cautious as they can about how their decisions in school will affect living out of school.”
Joseph Fusco, Cabrini’s director of Public Safety, said there would be no reason for students to avoid returning to campus due to safety reasons. Instead, students could be withdrawing due to grade-related or personal reasons. “I think COVID-19 is the main reason why students don’t want to come back to campus. Most individuals still don’t feel comfortable being in a social setting. That could be a huge reason why individuals are not on campus,” he said.
Back into the swing of things
Despite debt and students’ personal issues, everyone is in the process of getting back into the swing of things after nearly two years of quarantine.
“We’re working to draw more students to campus that want to stay on campus, and for those that are here, keeping them here,” Brenzel said.
Waqar explained Cabrini is working on programming that will make on campus living more desirable. She said, “I’ve seen students who crave the desire to have roommates, to go back and be able to do things.” Waqar hopes to get commuters and students living on campus involved in activities occurring in residence halls, and throughout Cabrini’s various facilities.
Waqar said, “We want to make sure we allow students to have their comfort zones. I have seen progress, but there’s a bigger problem to this and that’s the pandemic. That’s going to take time for us to be able to completely return back to a new normal. I think that, in general, the pandemic has affected students wanting to live on campus all across the nation. It’s not a Cabrini thing, but it will change with time.”