“Should I Stay Or Should I Go?”
An investigation into the benefits of university students living off-campus against the benefits of living at home.
Many thanks to the voluntary survey participants who provided this project with its basic findings.
Also thanks to my classmates and tutors who assisted me through this journey of research with sound advice and constructive criticism.
It is clear that in the area of Wollongong and its surrounding suburbs, there is a high amount of university students who live off-campus.
Yet what is not clear is why they choose to live off-campus when they could continue living at home. There is also fairly limited research into how the off-campus university students view their living arrangement.
Thus this project is purposed to investigate these issues, by researching the opinions of university students who live either at home or off-campus. The topics included in this research are: work hours, free time, financial stress, and academic achievement.
Trends found in this research were:
- Students living at home spend less money per week, but travel further to university.
- Off-campus students most value their independence, and believe that their living arrangement has had a positive impact on their academic achievement.
- Students living at home mainly did so due to cost.
This report will describe the methodology and findings of the research conducted, as well as the conclusions drawn, and further points of study needed.
The principal aim of this research project is to answer the question, ‘How do university students view their current living situation?’ Specifically in contrast of living off-campus and living at home.
To determine these opinions, two surveys were published, and a critical analysis of secondary sources was conducted.
This project aims to conduct these surveys with respect and consideration to the voluntary participants. The research also aims to present its findings accurately, fairly, and be held accountable to the conclusions that are drawn at the end of the project.
Two surveys were issued, through the online survey creator SurveyMonkey.com, one for students who were living off-campus to complete, and one for students living at home to complete.
These surveys investigated:
- The financial situation of each living arrangement.
- Whether either group felt that their living arrangement had had a negative impact on their academic achievement.
- What were the reasons behind each student choosing their living arrangement.
Each survey, along with the participant information sheet, was linked on the Facebook page, ‘UOW Communications and Media Studies’, my own personal Facebook page, and the Facebook page, ‘Australian Nerdfighters’.
Content analysis of secondary sources was also completed to provide an extensive sounding board of research to either reflect my findings or disagree with my research.
- Andrews, B. and Wilding, J. (2004). The relation of depression and anxiety to life-stress and achievement in students. British Journal of Psychology, [online] 95(4), pp.509-521. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1348/0007126042369802/abstract [Accessed 17 May 2016].
This peer-reviewed article indicates that financial stress caused by living out of home while at university can lead to significant issues in university students. These issues include high levels of anxiety and depression. The article states that these issues may affect academic performance, but that there are also many other factors that can contribute to a decrease in exam performance.
- Bennett, R. (2003). Determinants of Undergraduate Student Drop Out Rates in a University Business Studies Department. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27(2), pp.123-141.
This journal articles states that financial hardship can play a powerful role in a student’s decision to leave or stay at university. Which when compounded with poor academic achievement, and a lack of commitment, is likely to lead to a decision to leave. Financial stress is associated with students that are living out of home, and self-esteem is explored as a crucial role in the withdrawal process.
- Pepe, K. and Bozkurt, I. (2010). Free time spending ways of university students, and the benefits they gained through these activities. Ovidius University Annals, Series Physical Education & Sport/Sci;2010, Vol. 10 Issue 2, p253.
This article investigates the way that university students spend their free time. The activities found included going to the cinema, reading books and newspapers and playing sports. This research is separated depending on the gender, living situation, work habits, and university hours of each survey respondent. The article concludes that free time is seen as beneficial to the health, education, and happiness of students.
The main indicator of disadvantage for this research project, was the disparity between the weekly living costs of home students and off-campus students.
On a weekly average, home students spent $103.75. Where off-campus students, including rent, food, utilities, had an average of $292.00 per week. Although it must be noted that 2 of the respondents do not pay rent while living out of home.
The answers to the ‘describe you financial situation’ part of the question provided detailed insight into how the respondents felt about their situations. For the off-campus students, keywords included ‘struggling’ and ‘scraping by’, with one respondent answering that their situation was ‘unideal’ as their youth allowance was still, from the time of the survey 3/5/16, being processed by the department of Human Services since December 2015.
The home students had very little to say about their situation, with only 1 respondent answering with ‘tight’ in regards to their weekly spending of $85.
This trend of off-campus students paying more per week is compounded by the University of Sydney article (USYD, 2016), which estimates that a university student, living alone and out of home, spends an average of $500 per week on accommodation, food, and utilities.
Home students, on average, travelled for 1 hour, mostly by car or train. Whereas off-campus students had an average of 15 mins, with their main source of transport being the bus, or walking.
- Opinions on Living Arrangement
For the off-campus students, the overwhelming response to the question, ‘What is the best part about living off-campus?’ was the independence and freedom of living away from family, and with friends or housemates with similar interests.
Other answers that were found in the survey and other sources include, privacy, easy ability to relax, and proximity to campus (Brightknowledge.org, 2016).
For home students, the best part of living at home was undoubtedly the cheaper lifestyle that enables them to save their money. But also ranked high was being with their family. Other reasons include less stress, family responsibilities and the familiarity of living at home (The Student Room, 2013).
Home students were also asked what is the worst part of living at home. With the majority answering along the lines of ‘no independence’ or ‘no freedom’. Which seems to be a reoccurring theme among university students who live at home (Hillman, 2015). Other answers included being distanced from ‘uni-life’ and the commute to university.
- The Benefits of the Other Living Arrangement
For off-campus students, the part of at-home living they most wished they could have incorporated into their lifestyle was their mum’s cooking, and the no or low cost living experienced by those living at home.
For home students, the majority answered with ‘nothing’. Meaning that there was no part of off-campus living that appealed to them enough to want it in their own living arrangement. However, the 2nd highest answer was ‘independence’.
- Free Time
For off-campus students, the main answers to what they do in their free time included; internet, reading, playing games, hanging out with friends, and Netflix. These activities seem to represent the wider literature on the subject of university students’ free time (Pepe and Bozkurt, 2010, de Klerk, 2014) which also included going for walks, listening to music, and going to the movies.
Home students had a much smaller range of activities included in their answers than the off-campus students. The two majority answers were reading and watching TV. Also included was seeing friends, going on the internet, and sport.
- Hours of work
Out of the 20 respondents for the off-campus survey, only 11 reported to be steadily employed. The other 9 claimed the pension, holiday work, and youth allowance as their regular sources of income.
Unfortunately it appears that the data collected from the survey, compared to other established sources, is not applicable, (Whirlpool, 2016, Horin, 2011). According to research, the optimal, and most common hours of work per week for university students is 8, with at least 80 % participating in employment.
Conversely, students living at home seemed to work more than the OC students. With 12 out of 17 reporting employment.
- Why Choose that Living Arrangement
The participants for the off-campus survey overwhelmingly responded with their family home being too far away to be a feasible commute as their reason for living in off-campus housing rather than at home, which agrees with most other sources (Hillman, 2015, Newman, 2015). Other reasons also included commutes being too long, the independence of living out of home, and family issue.
For home students, almost all respondents (16/17) included ‘saving money’ as one reason for why they chose to remain at home. Other reasons included being close to friends and family, and ‘just because’. One respondents in depth answer shed some light on how money can impact the decision of where to live for university students; ‘I hate it but I can’t afford to leave.’
- Impact on academic achievement
Despite the financial hardships and stress (Andrews and Wilding, 2004, Bennett, 2003, Lim and Teo, 1997) usually associated with living off-campus, the results of the survey had a majority of positive impacts on the academic achievement of those that lived off-campus.
Conversely, home students indicated that their low-cost lifestyle (Newall, 2010) mostly had a negative impact on their academic achievement. This was reported as the result of noise issues, family and pet distractions, and long travel times that took up hours of potential study.
- Advice/ Questions
For home students, most respondents had questions regarding pricing, budgeting, paying bills and renting.
Off-campus students had many insightful pieces of advice for home students that may be looking to move out:
- Just do it
- Do it in stages
- Stay at home to save money
- Take care of yourself
- Bring things that comfort you i.e. teddies
- Keep in contact with friends and family
In terms of answering, ‘How do university students view their current living situation?’ Specifically in contrast of living off-campus and living at home.’ It appears that neither group feels particular negative or positive towards their current living arrangement.
It does appear as though home students view their living arrangement as disruptive towards their university learning and academic achievement, but the survey sample is far too small to be able to definitively conclude on this issue, and more research is definitely needed.
It is evident that off-campus students have a higher financial burden than their home student counterparts. But it does not appear as though this causes them higher amounts of stress, or to work longer hours than home students, a new research project with a wider sample may produce more definitive answers.
Home students definitely need more readily available information on the financial aspects of living out of home. Which the off-campus students replicated in their advice to save well before leaving home.
Overall, both groups find different forms of stresses and pleasures in their living arrangement. There can be no definitive conclusion on which living arrangement is better, or which one students feel is an ultimately better option, as each individual must assess their situation on a case-by-case basis, more research is needed to further discuss this issue.
Andrews, B. and Wilding, J. (2004). The relation of depression and anxiety to life-stress and achievement in students. British Journal of Psychology, [online] 95(4), pp.509-521. Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1348/0007126042369802/abstract [Accessed 17 May 2016].
Bennett, R. (2003). Determinants of Undergraduate Student Drop Out Rates in a University Business Studies Department. Journal of Further and Higher Education, 27(2), pp.123-141.
Brightknowledge.org. (2016). Should you stay or go? — Brightside. [online] Available at: https://www.brightknowledge.org/knowledge-bank/independent-living/starting-university/should-you-stay-or-go [Accessed 16 May 2016].
de Klerk, N. (2014). Free-Time Management amongst Generation Y Students. MJSS.
Hillman, N. (2015). Why do students study so far from home?. [online] Times Higher Education (THE). Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/why-do-students-study-so-far-from-home [Accessed 16 May 2016].
Horin, A. (2011). Balance the key for uni students who work. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/balance-the-key-for-uni-students-who-work-20110111-19ms9.html [Accessed 17 May 2016].
Lim, V. and Teo, T. (1997). Sex, money and financial hardship: An empirical study of attitudes towards money among undergraduates in Singapore. Journal of Economic Psychology, 18(4), pp.369-386.
Newman, G. (2015). Student accommodation: Moving out vs living with parents • UNI101. [online] UNI101. Available at: http://uni101.com.au/living-with-parents-vs-living-at-home/ [Accessed 17 May 2016].
Payment rates for Youth Allowance – Australian Government Department of Human Services. (2016). Humanservices.gov.au. Retrieved 23 April 2016, from https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/enablers/payment-rates-youth-allowance
Pepe, K. and Bozkurt, I. (2010). Free time spending ways of university students, and the benefits they gained through these activities. Ovidius University Annals, Series Physical Education & Sport/Sci;2010, Vol. 10 Issue 2, p253.
Sydney University Business. (2016). Helpsheet Study Guide. [online] Available at: http://sydney.edu.au/business/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/90349/Study_Guide.pdf [Accessed 17 May 2016].
The Student Room. (2013). Should I Live At Home or in Halls? FAQ & Chat Megathread. [online] Available at: http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=2405506 [Accessed 16 May 2016].
The University of Sydney. (2016). Living costs. [online] Available at: http://sydney.edu.au/study/finances-fees-costs/living-costs.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 2016].
Whirlpool. (2016). Uni students. How many hours do you work. [online] Available at: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1691571 [Accessed 17 May 2016].