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To Commute or Not to Commute

While the stereotypical view of the college experience involves moving away to college and living in dorms, there is a significant number of students at MBU who favor a different aspect of college life — commuting, even beginning the new Commuter Club.

Photo by Daniel Dilworth

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Deciding where to live while attending college is a very important decision and will affect almost every aspect of your college experience.

Commuting is, perhaps, a less glamorous choice, but it is not without its benefits.

Krista Krekeler, a sophomore public relations major from O’Fallon, said the cost of living on campus was one of the reasons she decided to start commuting from her home.

“I loved the overall atmosphere of living on campus – a lot of activities all the time. It was really fun to just be around that community. But, it is extremely expensive. And that’s something where it came down to,” Krekeler said. “Why should I be taking out student loans to live on campus when I live 30 minutes away? So I decided to make the switch to commuting and I’ve liked it a lot better that way, honestly.”

For the 2017-18 academic year, housing costs at MBU range from $5,090 (for Pillsbury-Huff and North Hall with 15-meal plan) to $6,920 (for Spartan Village Apartments with 19-meal plan) per semester.

Thus, students would pay a minimum of $10,000 for on-campus housing for both semesters.

Along with the financial benefits, Krekeler also felt like commuting compels students to be more responsible.

“Before, when I was living on campus, I could just like roll out of bed and run to class. But now I have to like be on a schedule and I can’t procrastinate as much, which is good,” Krekeler said.

Duncan Lutz-Dreyer, a sophomore Christian ministry major from St. Louis who also opted for commuting, agreed with Krekeler, saying that “if you lived there, you could just roll out of bed and go to class; commuters have to get up earlier.”

Harrison Heinrich, a sophomore theatre major from Kirkwood, said that one of strongest appeals to commuting when he was a freshman was being able to go home to his family.

“It was good to, like, if you had a stressful day at school or whatever, you could just sort of go home and relax and still have your parents kind of help you with things,” Heinrich said.

Similarly, Eliana Steele, a junior accounting major from Chesterfield, enjoys the perks of living at home.

“It allows me to have my own room and because I live at home I get my mother’s cooking, which is a huge plus for me.”

Phillip Holland, a sophomore music and broadcast media major who commutes from WIldwood, enjoys the freedom that comes with not living on campus.

“I have a lot more freedom. So, like, I’m not stuck living with the same three people all the time. I can go, like, spend the night with my friends or whatever, whenever I want to.”

Of course, there are drawbacks to commuting just as much as living on campus.

One of the biggest complaints of commuting students is parking.

“Parking sucks, a lot. The parking lot is also really far away from any of the classes,” Holland said. “The shuttle is OK but there’s only one of them and sometimes it has to go all the way over to the football field so that doesn’t really help us out too much.”

Krekeler said she believes the parking situation for commuters reflects a larger feeling of indifference toward commuting students on the part of the university.

“It just seems like they (the school) care a lot more about those who live on campus versus people who commute. Because I know, honestly, even with the parking situation – I know it’s something everyone complains about but … honestly, there should be something done,” Krekeler said. “Rather than building more on-campus housing, maybe there should be something done about the parking lot situation and how, if you get here after 10 a.m., you’re parking back in the gravel and having to walk up from there.”

MBU administrators have been aware of the difficulties posed to commuting students and have been working on a finding a solution for some time.

MBU is currently in the middle of a three-year, $1.3 million project that will add an additional 241 parking spaces.

The groundwork has already been laid for adding more parking around North Hall and paving the gravel portion of C Lot with the construction of bioretention and detention basins for stormwater that runs off the paved parking lot.

During the summer of 2018, the paving of the gravel lot, the extension of North Hall Drive, lighting, a retaining wall and landscaping are all scheduled for completion.

The project is expected to open in the fall of 2018.

To read more about this project, refer to the MBU Timeline article “The Paving of C Lot” by Josh Eaton.

Steele offered a new perspective on the parking at MBU.

“See, I come from SLU where I had to walk half a mile from the parking garage to class, so this is like half the distance so for me I’m like; ‘wow, this is great. I don’t have to walk very far.’”

Heinrich did not see the parking situation as that much of a problem.

“I mean, it is kind of a pain to park all the way up in C, sometimes C-sharp lot, if you can’t find a spot. But I don’t really mind walking, so it’s not a big deal.”

Lutz-Dreyer also said that he doesn’t mind walking from Lot C to class and he thinks it seems farther than it actually is.

“The walk to C Lot, I mean, it’s really not that far; but, I guess relative to our campus it seems far. It’s an interesting phenomenon.”

Another commonly expressed struggle that commuters face is a getting involved in the social activities on campus.

“It’s hard to be involved when you’re commuting; when you’re not on campus,” Krekeler said. “Just because, when I was on campus I knew about everything that was going on because I feel like Res. Life did a good job of advertising everything. But now that I commute I feel like I’m entirely out of the loop on all the events and everything that is going on.”

Likewise, Holland said he thinks it is harder for commuters to learn about upcoming events.

“Events on campus aren’t really advertised as much for commuters because we aren’t here all the time so we don’t always see those flyers and whatnot.”

Steele, a student who recently transferred to MBU from SLU, expressed a differing opinion.

“I think MoBap does a good job of having a lot of events where you can meet people and be involved.”

Not only does living on campus make it easier to stay aware of upcoming events, but it also gives students more opportunities to interact with different segments of the student body.

“I feel like this year I’ve made a lot of new friends that I wouldn’t have got to know if I was a commuter still,” said Heinrich, a sophomore who decided to live on campus this year after commuting his freshman year.

While he agrees that it is harder to get involved and make friends as a commuter, Lutz-Dreyer offered a different perspective by looking at how commuting has helped him maintain the relationships he already has.

“I think one of the big reasons I wanted to stay at home, while I was going to college was, you know, I still wanted to be part of the things that were going on here at home,” he said. “You know, I still wanted to be a part of my family and still be active at church and stuff like that. I just really felt like moving away would remove me from the scene for, you know, the majority of the year.”

Marnise Ivory-Taggert believes living on campus is an important part of college.

“It’s easier to be involved in the whole college experience when you live on campus than when you commute,” said Ivory-Taggert, a third year music education major from Webster Groves.

Furthermore, she said she believes that living on campus makes it easier for students to stay on top of their academics.

“I feel like living on campus, you’re closer to the school, it’s easier to be involved and I feel like living on campus makes it easier for you to focus on your schoolwork ‘cause you are at school the majority of the time.”

Because some students who commute have trouble meeting other students, Becca Starrett and Ansley Little began the Commuter Club, a student organization for commuters.

Of course, one of the most obvious inconveniences for commuters is the time and gas spent driving to and from MBU every day.

Depending on how far a student is driving and the gas mileage of their vehicle, this could be a very important factor.

“I drive a big V-8 and it’s extremely expensive,” said Holland. “Even though I only live 20, 25 minutes away it’s still really expensive. Yesterday I used $20 worth of gas, a whole quarter tank in one day. And I was not happy about that.”

For some students, such as Ivory-Taggert, the cost of gas was not a major factor.

“Gas wasn’t too bad ‘cause I didn’t go any places that weren’t within my commute from school and home,” she said.

Neither did she find the cost of on-campus housing to be too much of an issue.  

“The price, for me, wasn’t something I had to worry too much about. I know for other people they have to front the whole living on campus price out of pocket, so I can see being a point for people to choose not to live on campus,” Ivory-Taggert said. “But for me it was worth it.”

Another important factor to consider is how much time will be spent each day driving to and from school.

“You have to factor in commute time, so that actually, that gives you a lot less time in the day to do what you need to do,” said Holland.

Likewise, Krekeler found that where you are coming from and what time of day you are commuting are important considerations.

“I didn’t realize when I made my decision that I live west on Highway 40. So, every single day when I’m coming towards St. Louis, everyone’s coming towards St. Louis to get to work,” Krekeler said. “And I have all 8 a.m.’s so I’m hitting that traffic every single day and I think that’s something you really need to consider as to whether it’s, like, feasible for you to make that commute. If it’s going to be too long for you or it’s something you can do. And if you have a reliable car and a ride to get here.”

Lutz-Dreyer agreed that traffic can be a hardship for commuters, but didn’t see it as much of problem.

“I gripe about, you know, sitting in traffic on I-270 — in the mornings especially. But it’s cheaper and honestly, I don’t know, it’s not that bad. You just gotta suck it up.”

For some students, commuting requires more responsibility and planning on the part of the student.

“There’s a lot of convenience to living on campus,” Krekeler said. “One of the most frustrating things for me has been eating, honestly. There’s so many mornings where I, like, forget to pack a lunch or something and I go to buy stuff on campus, but the food is outrageous if you don’t live here.”

Meal plans for non-resident students at MBU range in cost from $735-$1,760 per semester, depending on how many meals per week the student needs to eat on campus.

Students can also pay for their lunch a la carte, usually looking at a price of $8-$15 for a meal.

The cost of eating in the cafeteria at MBU is generally comparable to eating at one of the nearby restaurants.

Students bringing food from home likely spend less if it is simple meals like sandwiches and fruit or leftovers of previous meals.

Students looking to save money should choose to eat simple meals and make their own meals.

Ivory-Taggert also mentioned how convenient it is to live on campus when it comes to academics.

“I’m right here next to class. If I need to go practice in the practice rooms for three hours I can just walk there and do it. I don’t have to drive and plan a whole trip for that.”

Several factors must be considered when making an important decision such as where to live while going to college.

Steele suggested that students compare the costs of gas involved in commuting, the cost of meals, how much time will be spent on the road and if they’re introverted or extroverted when deciding whether commuting was right for them.

There is no perfect answer; each student must decide whether commuting is the best choice given their unique situation.

“Overall, I’m content,” said Lutz-Dreyer. “I mean, I’ll always complain about having to sit in traffic and wake up early, but ultimately this was my decision and it saves money and there’s a purpose behind it.”

Holland offered one final word of warning to students who were trying to make that decision: “If you have 8 a.m. classes, I would recommend living on campus — especially till you get in the hang of things, ‘cause waking up early in the morning is gonna be a slap in the face if you’re not used to it.”

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Daniel Dilworth

Daniel Dilworth

Daniel Dilworth is a staff journalist for MBU Timeline. Daniel majors in broadcast media and theatre. He enjoys being a part of telling stories, through the arts and modern media. Daniel also enjoys writing, music and being outdoors. Upon graduation, he plans to pursue a career where he can combine his passion and knowledge of entertainment and information.

@mbutimeline

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