What is a Residency Requirement?

A residency requirement is a policy that requires students to live on campus for a specified amount of time. The length of the requirement varies depending on the type college or university. Historically, private universities like the University of Mary invest in maintaining a residential campus where the majority of students live on campus because students who live on campus are much more likely to be involved in campus activities that contribute to the student’s growth and development of leadership skills. Many private universities have residency requirements of three or even four years. Realizing the value of the residential experience, many public colleges and universities now have residency requirements for at least one or two years. Generally, there are not residency requirements at community colleges and other schools with large commuter student populations. 


What is the University of Mary’s Residency Requirement?

The University of Mary Residency Requirement requires traditional undergraduate students to live on campus for a minimum of five semesters or until the semester after the student’s 21st birthday. The complete policy appears in the 2020 edition of the University of Mary Student Handbook as Community Standard 13. (Please see below for a clear history of the requirement.)


Why does the University of Mary have a Residency Requirement?

From its founding, the University of Mary has been committed to an educational experience encompassing the whole person. The University’s 2030 Strategic Plan is called Education for Life. This approach to education is rooted in the Catholic intellectual tradition so beautifully articulated by Saint John Henry Cardinal Newman in The Idea of a University. In this tradition, the value of living on campus is understood as an important component of a complete education. Newman describes how the university encourages intellectual, social, and spiritual development with emphasis on the role of relationships and friendships students form with professors, staff, and their peers when they live as part of a residential campus community.

Research supports Newman’s vision. Studies have consistently shown students who live on-campus are more likely to:

  • Succeed academically
  • Persist to graduation
  • Be involved in co-curricular activities that help them form leadership skills
  • Form life-long friendships with other students
  • Form friendships with students from different backgrounds
  • Experience a mentoring relationship with faculty/staff
  • Be satisfied with their educational experience

At the University of Mary, students who live on-campus report high levels of satisfaction with their experience. They rate the opportunity to be with friends, proximity to classes, the Crow’s Nest, chapels, the library, fitness and recreation facilities, and the convenience of not having to cook and shop for groceries among the top reasons for their satisfaction. They also give high marks to the care provided by the residence life staff.

The importance of a vibrant residence life culture is important in the recruitment and retention of students. How many students would enroll if the University of Mary did not have residence halls? How many students would persist to graduation? 

It is paradoxical, but even students who live off-campus benefit from residence halls. This point is clear when you ask, What the campus would be like for commuter students if there were no residence halls? Would the university be able to support facilities such as the Lumen Vitae Center, the Crow’s Nest and the Fitness Center?


I Understand the University of Mary Residency Requirement Changed. When Did it Change and Why?

From its founding, the University of Mary has had a residency requirement. For many years, students under the age of 21 with fewer than 60 credits (freshman and sophomores) were required to live on-campus.

In 2017, the University changed its residency requirement to the current five-semester requirement for all students enrolling on or after August 1, 2018. The new policy was first published in the 2017 edition of the University of Mary Student Handbook and it has appeared in the subsequent editions published in 2018 and 2019. All admissions personnel, coaches, and other key persons in communication with prospective students were informed of the change.

The primary reasons for the change include:

  1. In recent years, a trend has emerged where freshman have been coming to the university with more college credits earned while in high school. This trend has been accelerating to the point where in the Fall of 2017, one-third of all freshman women earned enough credits to be classified as sophomores by the end of their first semester. Simply put, students began to reach the old benchmark of 60 credits to fulfill their on-campus residency requirement much sooner than in the past. While the majority continued to live on-campus, we began to see a trend where some students chose to move off campus at younger ages. Some of these students also chose to move midyear, causing difficulties for roommates left behind and creating new challenges for the residence life staff in the residence halls. In response to this trend and to allow for more developmental maturity at the point of moving off campus, the university changed from a credit-based residency requirement (60 credits) to a semester-based requirement (5-semesters) more equivalent to the previous policy.
  1. The university’s Year-Round Campus (YRC) Program proved to be an important consideration. It is here where you may ask, “Why five semesters? Why not four or even six?” Five semesters will mean that YRC students will live on campus for the same amount of time as they would under the previous policy.  Essentially, they will be required to live on campus two full academic years, counting the one summer in between.  For students that do not participate in YRC, the policy ensures those who reach their junior status earlier than in the past, also live on campus for the optimal time.


How is the Residency Requirement Applied to Transfer Students?

If the student is a transfer student, he/she will receive a one-semester credit towards the University of Mary Residency Requirement for each semester he/she completed at his/her previous institution(s).


Are There Exceptions to the Residency Requirement?

Exceptions are limited. All exceptions must be approved in advance by the On-Campus Residency Committee. The Committee meets in November, March, June and July. Approval is normally limited only to the following circumstances:

  1. For the entire period in question, the student will continue to live in the primary family home with his/ her parents or court-appointed legal guardian(s) and the street address of the home is no more than 60 miles from the University of Mary.
  2. If the student is a transfer student, he/she will receive a one-semester credit for each semester he/she was enrolled at his/her previous institution(s).
  3. The student is married. Students with plans to marry during the time they are required to live on campus will be required to live on-campus up to the date of the wedding.
  4. The student is the legal custodial parent or court appointed custodial guardian of a minor child or children.
  5. The student is registered with the Office of Student Accessibility Services with a documented disability and is able to provide appropriate documentation to verify the need for a reasonable accommodation in the student residence facility the university is not able to provide.

Requests for approval to live off-campus from students bound by this policy must be submitted using the appropriate form (available from in the Student Development Office located in the Benedictine Center for Servant Leadership). The deadline to submit requests for approval to live off campus is the first of the month of the month when the On-Campus Residency Committee meets. The university reserves the right to consider each request on a case-by-case basis and require any documentation deemed necessary to verify the information submitted with the request.

The student is advised not to enter into any lease or rental agreement before the On-Campus Residency Committee makes its determination with regard to the student’s request. The determination made by the committee in all such matters is final without further right to appeal.

The student who receives approval to live off campus must renew his/her approval by submitting a new request each semester. The renewal must be completed prior to the time the student registers for classes. If renewal is not complete, the student will be subject to a hold that will prevent the student from being able to register for classes.