October 4, 2023
Living Without Dormitories and Succeeding
Find out why NSA does not offer dormitory living.
While the practice of college dormitories is ubiquitous, it is actually a rather strange idea. College students are sequestered on campus in dorms with others who are the same age as themselves. They are given easy access to a variety of amenities that do not relate directly to academic work: swimming pools, food options, volleyball courts, and so on. This feature of college life has been assumed to be normal and good. However, New Saint Andrews College disagrees with this assumption and does not offer dormitory space for students.
Dr. Ben Merkle, president of NSA, talking about why the college does not have dorms, said, “Many think that this is because we are so small that we can’t afford them. But from what I have seen from other small schools, often their residence system is where they make all their profits. We could have captured those revenues, but we chose not to do that.”
The dormitory system is problematic and often prevents college students from growing into mature adults. Dr. Merkle explained, “We never liked how dorms infantilize college students. And so we’ve always said no to starting them.”
NSA believes that living in a real community is a more profitable way for men and women to spend their years in college. While college students need dedicated space for academic work and classes, students should not be detached from the larger community. Instead, college students should live with and around other people from a variety of backgrounds: older people and younger people. To keep students isolated on college campuses apart from this broader community creates an artificial space that prevents college students from becoming adults.
The reality is NSA sees college as an important time for students to grow up. College students are freshly stepping out into the real world, and while they need support and encouragement, they also need the space to be on their own so they can find their feet. It would be unhelpful for the mother bird to hover over the new adult bird once it leaves the nest. The same is true for college students. They need space to spread their wings and fly.
Living in the broader community allows wiser and older men and women to offer practical advice and insights that college students cannot get from their peers.
It is also unhelpful to group college students with just their peers because it groups them with people who are all in the same stage of life. Men and women in college need the interaction of older mentors and friends in the Christian community to show them life after college: what it is like to work and have a family. Living in the broader community allows wiser and older men and women to offer practical advice and insights that college students cannot get from their peers. College is a pivotal time in the trajectory of students’ lives. It is at this time that college students make key decisions about their lives: career, spouse, and church. In order to make these decisions in a wise way, they need to see what life beyond college will look like.
Living in a real community also allows college students to offer their unique gifts and abilities to those in the community. Men and women in college are essential to the broader community in how they help in jobs, businesses, community service, and other ways. Some examples of this at NSA are the student-run activities like Students for the Relief of the Oppressed and the Fall Carnival. Without college students actively participating in the community, the community as a whole will suffer. Men and women in college are vital to the life and health of the larger community.
Living in a real community also allows college students to offer their unique gifts and abilities to those in the community.
NSA consciously chooses a different path from the dormitory model because we believe young men and women should gain stature and independence in a setting that reflects real life after college. In this way, NSA treats college students as adults. College is not a glorified daycare system. Students must step up and mature. Students must learn to live as adults.
NSA has resources and aids to mentor students throughout their time at the college. Professors invite students to be part of their lives, and they provide counsel and advice on a host of questions about life. Professors do this mentoring with the goal of encouraging students to be adults in the real world.
The mission of NSA is to graduate leaders who shape culture. Leaders need to be able to work in the real world with real people. To do that work, men and women need to live outside the college and interact with others who are not in college. Our thoughtful alternative to dorms is living in a real community.