Should I Stay Or Should I Go?

“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.

Tayla Bosley

 

Acknowledgements

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.

 

Introduction

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.

 

Aims

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.

 

Methodology

Survey

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

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

 

Findings

  1. Spending

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.

 

  1. Travel

TIME OF TRAVEL

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.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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’.

 

  1. 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.

 

  1. 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.

HOURS WORKED

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.

 

  1. 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.’

 

  1. Impact on academic achievement

REAXTION

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.

  1. 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
  • Budget!!!
  • 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

 

Conclusion

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.

 

Bibliography                                           

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].

 

Survey Participant Information

Participant Information Sheet

Contacting

My name is Tayla Bosley, and I am currently completing a bachelor of Communications and Media Studies (Dean’s Scholar). This research is for my final project in BCM210 Research Practices In Media and Communication.

My email is tlb734@uowmail.edu.au

Off-campus living survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DG3ZC8Y

Living at home survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DPK5GMB

 

Nature and aims of the research project:

The question that my research is attempting to answer is: “What are the advantages and disadvantages of moving out while studying when you could remain in the family home?”.

My aim is to determine the opinions of university students on off-campus housing against living at home.

This includes themes such as:

  • Money
  • Social life
  • Academic achievement
  • Free time

 

Participation

Participation in this project is voluntary. If, at any time, you wish to withdraw you are free to do so.

If you do wish to participate, my research will require you to complete an online survey and/or participate in a focus group.

The surveys consists of 12 questions, and should take about 10 minutes to complete. It is anonymous and be available online from 28/04/2016 to 5/05/2016.

The focus group will be face-to-face, and consist of 6-10 people. It will consist of 10 questions, and take about 30mins to 1 hour. First names will be used from the focus group, as examples may be used in the research. The focus group will be recorded.

 

Inclusion and Exclusion

You must be between 18 and 25 years old to participate.

Living at Home: If you are currently living in your family home, and must travel for at least 30mins to UOW. You are eligible to participate in the living at home survey or the focus group.

Living out of home: If you live in off-campus housing, within 20mins from UOW, you may participate in the off-campus survey or the focus group.

Other: If you live on-campus or have another arrangement, you are not needed to participate in the survey or focus group. Also, if your family home is more than 2 hours away, you do not need to participate.

 

Risks, Inconvenience, Discomfort

You may feel inconvenienced by the length of time needed to complete either the survey or the focus group. Although measures have been taken to prevent this, you are free to abandon either one if you feel the need.

If you feel uncomfortable with talking about your living situation, which includes weekly spending [Note: you will not be asked how much money you make], you may again abstain from this project.

If you decide that you are uncomfortable with the information you have given being published online, even with anonymity, you may revoke your consent to the project, and the information will not be used in the research.

 

Benefits

The benefits of this research are for those who are indecisive about their current living situation, whether at home or off-campus, and wish to know more about one or both options. For example, for those participants living at home, this research may provide new insight into how and why people live off-campus.

 

Privacy and Confidentiality

Anonymity in the survey and only first names in the focus group are the methods employed to ensure privacy in this research.

Confidentiality is ensure by the promise that if consent is withdrawn by a participant, all information relating to that person will be removed from the research and publication. [Note: this is not an option after the research has been published online]

Edit: The research findings will be published on this blog from the 05/06/2016

 

 

 

Research Review And Proposal

Proposed Project

To discover through research whether living at home or moving out for university is a better option for students and what their opinions are on the issue.

I wish to determine whether the financial costs of living either on campus or in shared accommodation are worth the easier access to university or the stress of living out of home for the first time.

I also wish to determine whether the social benefits of living with people similar in age outweigh the financial and benefits of continuing to live at home while studying university.

The factors that will determine the better living arrangement include:

  • Financial capability
  • Travel expenditure and time
  • Stress levels
  • Social interaction
  • Academic achievement
  • ‘Free’ time
  • Overall feeling of fulfilment

I must also state that this investigation only applies to those university students whose parental homes are within a 1 hour drive of the university. Students who need to move to attend university due to a larger distance of travel are except from this project.

 

Primary question

Do students think it is worth moving out of home to attend university?

 

Preliminary Readings

  1. University students squeezed by rent stress, study finds
    April 22, 2010
    Heath Gilmore

This Sydney Morning Herald piece illuminates the struggles that some university students have in paying rent while living out of home.

The online anonymous survey quoted in the article states:

  • 66% of university students living away from home are suffering extreme rent distress.
    • Rent distress is defined by the federal government as 30% of a person’s gross income.
  • Up to 53% of the 907 respondents were living out of home.

There is also the case study of Phil Boncardo

  • Fifth-year arts-law student.
  • Sharing a house at Chippendale.
  • Had to pay 6 months rent in advance as a condition of obtaining property.
  • Earns $250 a week.
  • Pays $226 a week in rent alone.
    • Funds bolstered by holiday work.

The statistics in this article are extreme. And while outdated now, provide an insight into the potentially hostile environment of living in off-campus accommodation. And also show the previous surveys done to research the rising issue of unsustainable off-campus living.

 

2. Leaving Home To Study

This is a ‘Personal Stories’ page from the Youth Central website for the Victorian government. It provides the case study of Alitia, 23, who moved out of her family home in Ballarat so she could attend Deakin University in Melbourne to study psychology.

The interview-style page asks questions that mirror my investigation nicely, and provides a starting point that I may continue on from.

These questions include:

  • Why did you move away from home to study?
  • What did your family and friends think about your decision?
  • What’s the best thing about living away from home?
  • What’s the worst thing about living away from home?
  • Is there anything you wish someone had told you before you made the move?

Alitia gives some great points about the value of money when living away from home. But also exhorts the importance and pleasure of freedom from her old home. This indicates research into both sides of my investigation. As well as the overall level of happiness and social well-being that comes with living out of home for this particular case subject.

 

3. Living Costs: Planning for everyday expenses and accommodation

This comprehensive article from the University of Sydney provides an in-depth analysis of the cost of living near their university campus at Newtown.

Their article cites that a single student living away from home will spend anywhere between $1400 and $2000 every month on accommodation, food, utilities and entertainment.

Each category of expenditure is carefully broken down to the most minute detail. Such as putting aside $4o a week for miscellaneous items such as toiletries and household products.

The categories include:

  • Accommodation
  • Groceries and food
  • Utilities
  • Travel
  • Entertainment
  • Insurance
  • Childcare
  • Academic support
  • One-off expenses

Overall the article is a detailed guide that I could build by statistics from. And which indicate the truly steep price of living out of home in Sydney. It also indicates that research has been done into the exact cost of living away from home, as well as the level of preparedness you must have to be able to move out.

 

 

Research Methodology

My first step for this project is to research as much previous information, statistics, inquires and sources that I can. This is to ensure I grasp the issue of living out of home against living at home in its entirety before attempting to delve further into the issue.

Next would include general surveys to gain my own statistics into how many people live on or off campus around the University of Wollongong. Other questions would include their level of financial stress, and how much they enjoy their current living arrangement.

I would also perform a focus group, to obtain several case studies in a short period of time. These would serve as real-world examples to whatever conclusion my findings lead me to.

If further investigation is needed, I could also include one-on-one interviews or further second-hand research.

 

Bibliography

Gilmore, H. (2010). University students squeezed by rent stress, study finds. The Sydney Morning Herald. [online] Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/national/university-students-squeezed-by-rent-stress-study-finds-20100421-t0me.html [Accessed 25 Mar. 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].

Youth Central. (2016). Leaving home to study. [online] Available at: http://www.youthcentral.vic.gov.au/studying-training/personal-stories/leaving-home-to-study [Accessed 25 Mar. 2016].