Where and with Whom Students Live: Impacts on Peer Belonging and Institutional Acceptance

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SENSE OF BELONGING is critical for students throughout their college experience, and even more so now, given the current concerns about undergraduate graduation rates. The purpose of this study was to explore how students' perception of their sense of belonging on campus is affected by where and with whom they live. We utilized a multidimensional approach, defining sense of belonging with two dimensions: peer belonging and institutional acceptance. In 2014, additional items measuring these dimensions were appended to the end of the core National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). Overall, more than 17,000 first-year and senior students at 44 four-year colleges and universities responded. For both first-year and senior students, results suggest that living environment and with whom a student resides impact their sense of belonging on campus. For example, students living with roommates reported higher levels of peer belonging than did those living alone. First-year students living farther than walking distance from campus reported lower levels of peer belonging than did those living on campus. Additionally, off-campus seniors who lived within walking or driving distance from campus reported lower levels of institutional acceptance than did their classmates living on campus. Additional results, potential reasons, and implications for these results are also discussed.

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Journal of College & University Student Housing, v. 46, issue 1, p. 10-29