What is a Collegiate Way of Living Worth? Exploring the Costs and Benefits of Residential Colleges as Perceived by Faculty and Chief Housing Officers
Reducing inefficiencies without compromising quality is a major challenge facing college and university leaders. Measuring efficiency and quality is often addressed through various statistical analyses (Archibald & Feldman, 2008; Flegg, Allen, & Thurlow, 2004). Researchers have also applied cost benefit analysis to measure efficiency. Collaboration is one mechanism used by university personnel to enhance efficiency and quality (Wiley, 2008). The literature on collaboration includes collaboration in research (Rigby & Elder, 2005), teaching (Kezar, 2005; Letterman & Dugan, 2004), and cross-divisional collaboration, learning communities (O’Connor & Associates, 2003). Residential colleges (where faculty live and work in residence halls) are another form of collaboration emerging across college campuses. A thorough review of the literature reveals no studies exploring the costs and benefits of residential colleges.
The purpose of this study was to understand and describe the costs and benefits of residential colleges. The theoretical framework for this study was based on Nas’ (1996) cost benefit analysis framework. Data were collected through 60-90 minute telephone interviews with live-in faculty leaders of residential colleges and chief housing officers on campuses that offer residential colleges. Participants came from 11 different campus and included 12 chief housing officers and 11 faculty members.
There are substantial institutional and individual costs associated with starting and maintaining a residential college. Institutional costs include departmental financial implications for facility renovations, staffing, and faculty incentives. Faculty principals and students bear individual costs. Impact on research, intensive time requirements for the position, and lack of recognition are costs affecting faculty. Residential college (RC) students incur additional fees and non-RC students are impacted by a diminished residential experience (as compared to their RC peers). Conversely, there are significant benefits resulting from residential colleges that may mitigate these costs. Institutions benefit from improved faculty pedagogy, expanded learning opportunities for students, and increased faculty connection to the institution. Individual benefits include positive faculty and student relationships (for faculty and students), increased understanding of students (for faculty), and faculty housing and other related incentives.