In defense of Macalester’s two-year residency

Evan Meerscheidt

For most of my four years at Macalester, I have heard rumors about the college adopting a three-year residency. Last week’s The Mac Weekly article, “Will Macalester require a 3-year residency?” solidified those rumors. I believe that the two-year residency requirement played an instrumental role in forming my Macalester experience. While Macalester may stand to gain financially as a result of a mandatory three-year residency, they will cost their students invaluable life experience and an opportunity to enter post-grad life with a unique set of skills.

Macalester stands out from many of its competitors in that students are only required to live on campus for two years. As the article mentions, schools like Carleton College and Grinnell College require their students to stay on campus for all four years. In a competition for the best and brightest incoming students, colleges are often copycats. Only a few years after Middlebury College began their MiddEntrepreneurs program — a month-long incubator for student entrepreneurs — Macalester ran their pilot for the now thriving MacStartups. Macalester’s Idea Lab is a product of similar entrepreneurship spaces on campuses like Colorado College and Wesleyan University.

While following trends allows Macalester to remain competitive with similar sized liberal arts schools, resisting the status quo may allow Macalester to stand out in a positive manner. One of the reasons I chose Macalester was the location. While the Mac-Groveland neighborhood is far from a booming metropolis, the area has offered me a variety of possibilities that I would not have had otherwise. The largest one, for me, is living off-campus.

According to Macalester’s Statement of Purpose and Belief, the school commits to developing students that “should be prepared to take responsibility for their personal, social and intellectual choices.” Part of that responsibility is being prepared to enter the world after college. Without skills such as shopping for one’s self, paying bills and interacting with landlords, many students may graduate and move to new cities unprepared to adjust to their new environment. These life skills allow Macalester graduates to spread across the world and represent the college well.

But wouldn’t a three-year residency allow students time to still get that experience? Technically, yes. However, moving off campus for a busy senior year may be difficult for some students. During their final year, seniors have capstones and theses to write, grad school applications to complete and jobs to interview for. Adding the new experience of living off-campus to the mix may overwhelm students and add unnecessary stress to an already difficult year.

The two-year residency, however, allows students to adjust to the complications of living in off-campus housing. Taking care of a house or apartment challenges a student’s organizational and time management skills far more than living in a dorm does. The extra semester or year of off-campus living will provide students with the opportunity to acclimate, before the pressures of the senior year set in.

Further, the plethora of off-campus housing options makes it much easier for students to stay in the Twin Cities and work or have an internship. Since most Macalester students are not Minnesota residents, the abundance of off-campus housing — easily found on the Macalester Housing Facebook page or through word of mouth — provides essential housing for students. Macalester uses most of its on-campus housing for camps or other conferences over the summer.

When the class of 2019 graduates, no students will remember 10K, and eventually there will be no recollection of the peeling orange. Two-year residency could soon become the latest relic of the past. Students need to continue to make two-year residency a high priority, in order to avoid this result. By advocating for a two-year residency, students will benefit both themselves and the school. We have a responsibility to protect the unique and positive aspects of the school for future generations of students. Hopefully, when making a decision about the residency, the school will listen to those most affected: students.