Retire the three-year residency requirement


Trinity University isn’t the only university that is likened to a “bubble,” but given the size of our campus and its placement within the seventh largest city in the country, the Trinity bubble is particularly stifling. There are ways to remedy this isolation, like getting involved in community service or patronizing coffee shops on the weekend instead of the Starbucks at Coates Library. Another way is one that students suggest often: retire the three-year residency requirement.

Trinity as an institution is proud of being a residential community where students must live in campus-provided housing for at least three years. According to the Residential Life webpage, the three-year residency requirement is “central to the mission of Trinity University.” Why, exactly? The site says it makes students become active members of the Trinity community, immerses them in a supportive environment, develops healthy relationship skills and more. These are important qualities, of course, which is why living on campus for your first year at Trinity is a positive. However, sophomores and juniors should get the chance to branch out from this environment like their counterparts at most other universities.

Living off-campus presents its own learning opportunities, like budgeting, paying bills and even learning how to clean your own bathroom after getting used to Trinity’s housekeeping services. It’s also a way to pop the Trinity bubble early. It can be nice to surround yourself with peers who understand your college life, but it can also feel suffocating when the place that stresses you out is also the place where you have to eat, sleep and relax. On a small campus like Trinity’s where everything is within 10 to 15 minutes walking distance, a dorm room is not much of a resting place. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us there can be detrimental effects on mental health when it’s impossible to separate your personal life from your workspace. The concept of work and personal life separation applies to college students too. College students are already dealing with rising levels of stress, so if they want to create a restful living place off campus after a year or two in a dorm, they should be able to.

Even barring any mental health or personal reasons for ditching the residency requirement, allowing older students to venture off campus would allow them to integrate into the greater San Antonio community. Trinity prides itself on its community engagement, but many students on our staff feel personally disconnected. Those of us who do live off-campus benefit from meeting neighbors who aren’t connected to Trinity, people of different ages and backgrounds that show us things the Trinity bubble can’t. Non-seniors enjoyed this privilege when the residency requirement was waived over the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, commuting to campus didn’t ruin the Trinity experience for those students. In fact, receiving this privilege from the university feels empowering since other adults our age get the chance to spend multiple years as a resident of their college city or town.

Changing the three-year residency requirement to only be for one or two years would be difficult, it’s true. Trinity’s dorms and City Vista – despite a few rats here and there – really are top-notch; even without a residency requirement, it’s unlikely that all or even most students would vacate campus. Even if they wanted to, finding housing close to campus can be its own beast, especially if you’re without transportation. This should be up to each student, though, after one or two years of mandated campus residency. If Trinity’s policies are going to represent the students’ values, it’s time to reevaluate our 3-year residency requirement.