As the spring semester at New England College closes, the real estate market in Henniker is beginning to boom. Upperclassmen are looking at apartments and houses to stay in over the summer instead of returning to their home towns, states, and even countries. But beyond that, students are taking the next step in independence by accepting the responsibility that an apartment entails; that is, if they can get approved to move off campus.
New England College’s strict six semester or 90 credit-minimum residency policy has prohibited anyone that doesn’t meet those requirements from moving off campus. But, with fall 2017’s first year class, NEC’s largest to date, these policies were suspended, in a way.
The influx of students placed a strain on housing, forcing the college to convert buildings like Fitch, Bridge, and Lewin into dorms, and the offices for both staff and clubs to squeeze into the upper floors of Simon and Spaulding. While the staff that have been moved into the Simon “Student Center” enjoy the change, the clubs that have been removed are left scrambling.
Meanwhile, students who petitioned to live off-campus were largely approved, even if they hadn’t yet met their minimum residency. Presumably, NEC needed to free up necessary dorm space for the next incoming class, so they loosened their policies, allowing many now-juniors to enjoy apartments around Henniker. But many changes have taken place since the renovations and influx.
New England College is planning the final steps in a merger with the smaller New Hampshire Institute of Art in Manchester. Along with the campus-expansion, the arts programs at both schools will widen and residency in Manchester will become an option. On top of that, the record class-size that NEC enrolled in 2017 has not quite repeated itself, meaning that the rush to free dorm space is beginning to slow.
With all this, NEC is beginning to tighten their policies again, so the students applying to be released from the housing contract seem to be out of luck. Those who have watched their older friends move off-campus and are hoping to follow in their footsteps are upset with their options being limited. But, understandably, NEC is hesitant to release students from the housing contract because of the money they collect from residence halls.
However, with the large step that college brings towards adulthood, living independently is the next one. College is a learning experience; people figure out who they are, make new friends, shape their world view, all while working towards the career they plan on pursuing for the rest of their life. The growing college students do is massive, so taking steps to prepare them for life outside of Henniker is important. This includes learning to function as an adult.
The structure that New England College affords its students provides the perfect environment for them to live on their own while still being supported by their institution only half a mile down the road. This is to say, perhaps the policies in place should be reexamined and the powers in charge of these decisions should ask themselves if they are nurturing or stunting the growth of their residents.