Master of Arts in Higher Education Theses

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Skip Trudeau

Second Advisor

Tim Herrmann

Third Advisor

Scott Moeschberger


The residential college campus model has been in existence in North America since the days of early Colonial America. Students living in dormitories and residence halls were the norm until the 1950s and 60s when students began to move off-campus. As this trend has continued research has examined the merits both of living on and off-campus and in general found that living on-campus is more closely associated with a wide range of positive outcomes, including engagement or involvement (Astin, 1984; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). Involvement theory states that the more time and effort invested in academically enhancing practices, the more likely the student is to be successful in college (Asin, 1984). In general, students living off-campus have been found to be less engaged than their on-campus counterparts (Kuh, Gonyea & Palmer, 2001).

This study examined the changes in student engagement by using data collected by the National Survey of Student Engagement in the spring of their freshmen and senior years. A single graduating class was studied with 156 participants in the study. The study found that there were no statistically significant differences between students living on-campus or off-campus during their senior years. A comparison of the means found that four of the five engagement benchmarks were positive, indicating an increase in engagement between freshmen and senior years. The lone negative mean, a lowering of engagement, was in the Supportive Campus Environment benchmark. These findings prompt discussion of the possible causes of the findings and the implications for practice and research moving forward.