LINCOLN — On campus or off?

That question comes to the minds of many college students considering where to live. They must weigh whether to stay in a residence hall on campus or move into an apartment off campus.

At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, freshmen are required to live on campus unless they live in approved Greek housing or with a relative within a 30-mile radius, according to Brian Shanks, associate director for business operations for university housing.

Shanks said 95 percent of UNL freshmen live on campus freshman year. He said living on campus is tied to academic success.

“It is documented that GPAs and graduation rates are much higher if you live on campus versus off campus. And the longer you live on campus, the better you do,” Shanks said.

As to why some students choose to leave after freshman year, he said he believes it’s because students look for lower cost options and more independence.

For some, staying put for the rest of their college career makes the most sense.

Carissa Soukup, who graduated in May, decided to live on campus all four years.

Living on campus “is so convenient, and I feel I’ve made more genuine connections with people by living in the dorms. It forced me to get out more and be more social,” Soukup said.

The convenience of being able to eat at the university dining halls and being able to wake up and walk to class are why Melisa Spilinek, a senior fashion design and merchandising major, has chosen to live on campus her entire time at the university.

The variety of food in the dining halls is a bonus, Spilinek said.

“If I cooked for myself, I’d just eat pasta every day,” she said. “Last week, they had Fiji Apple Cider Chicken. It was really good, and that’s not something I would make for myself.”

While the cost of housing at UNL increased 3.5 percent this year, Shanks said, the cost of living on campus decreased after the school added two new lower-cost meal-plan options.

The university also offers three living options: traditional, suite-style and apartment-style halls. Spilinek lived in a traditional dorm her first year and has been in an apartment-style dorm the past three years.

If UNL didn’t have apartment-style dorms, it would have been a game changer, Spilinek said.

“I didn’t like freshman year when my only option was a microwave.” The apartment-style dorms have full kitchens so students can cook if they want, and Spilinek said it’s great over breaks when she stays to work and the dining halls are closed.

Shanks said this year UNL offered sign-up incentives to compete with the incentives that off-campus housing properties offer students. He said students were put into drawings for football tickets, headphones and free parking.

Students have plenty of off-campus housing options to choose from as well with seven major complexes nearby the university’s city campus. Each apartment complex offers something a little different from the other.

Zach Lewis, a former construction management major who graduated in August, lived at Canopy Lofts for two years after living on campus for two years. Lewis lived with three roommates and paid $575 a month for rent while also paying $15 a month for electricity and $63 a month for parking. One of the advantages for Lewis was being able to live downtown and enjoy all the amenities that come with it.

“It is close to restaurants and entertainment, so you never really have to drive anywhere,” Lewis said. “The building offers a nice gym, study space, rooftop kitchen, grills and a coffee bar.”

When comparing his apartment to when he lived on campus, he said that living downtown was more appealing.

Canopy Lofts is located at 601 R St., across the street from Pinnacle Bank Arena and the Railyard, an entertainment district.

While being close to the nightlife and within walking distance to campus was nice, Lewis said being so close to the arena had its drawbacks, especially where parking was concerned.

“Parking can be a real pain in the butt when it comes to events because you’ll be waiting in line for 30 minutes just to get in the garage you pay $70-plus a month to park in and you don’t have your own spot,” Lewis said.

World-Herald staff writer Kiley Cruse contributed to this report.

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