The Missouri House Majority Caucus Secretary is pushing legislation that would prevent public universities from requiring students to stay in dorms for more than one year.

The Missouri Capitol in Jefferson City

State Rep. Jason Chipman (R-Steelville) testifies housing is too expensive for some students, even though on-campus living may benefit grades. The House Higher Education Committee heard testimony on Chipman’s bill this week.

The committee has not voted yet on the Chipman bill.

Chipman says one school year in the Mizzou residence halls costs about $10,000, a price not worth the grade point average boost some experts say on-campus living can give to students.

“You have to ask yourself, is a 3.3 versus a 3.6 worth 10 grand?” he asked the committee. “That’s 10 grand that could go toward a down payment on a house, buying a car, starting a family, participating in the economy.”

Chipman says requiring students to live on campus is a way for universities to make money, describing it as a coercive practice used to pay off multi-million dollar residence hall building projects.

Chipman says three public universities in the state require students to live on campus for more than one year: Missouri S&T, Southeast Missouri State, and the University of Central Missouri. While rules vary across the state, most schools only make students live on campus in their first year. There are a wide range of exceptions available to students who want to live off campus.

Mizzou requires all first-time college students under 20 to live in its halls, but offers exceptions to students who are married, live with a parent, or live in a fraternity or sorority house.

The Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri is against further limitations and exceptions because they limit flexibility universities have in policy choices.

Council on Public Higher Education Director Paul Wagner says universities have good reasons for requiring students to live on campus past their first year. Missouri S&T, with its focus on engineering, wants students living on campus in their second year because coursework gets tougher. The school estimates it could see a ten to 15 percent drop in graduation rates if it removed the requirement.

Wagner also points to the University of Central Missouri as a success story of on-campus living requirements.

“They’ve seen a 14-percent increase in the number of students that are on track to graduate on time,” he says. “They’ve seen a 10-percent higher graduation rate, and these all equate to lowering borrowing cost and lower total cost of degree for students.”

The University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg adopted a two year on-campus living policy four years ago.

The Committee on Legislative Research estimates elimination of on-campus living requirements could result in losses exceeding $3 million dollars annually in state college and university funds. While the numbers are still unclear, that amount could climb if universities run into issues with bond payments on residence hall projects. Many public universities that may be impacted say their ability to meet costs depends on stable numbers of students living on campus.

Chipman’s district includes Phelps and Crawford counties.