CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - Budget cuts on the state level have universities like Southeast Missouri State University looking for new ways to bring in money, but school leaders say they're also benefiting from a residency rule that's been in place since the 1980s.
It requires students to live on campus for two years, with some exceptions, and when they're upperclassman they get to choose where they want to live.
The Director of Residence Life, Dr. Kendra Skinner, said the rule was a big part of the university's record-breaking retention rate in Fall 2017, and that it even helps if enrollment is slightly down.
"Our residence halls are above 90-percent occupancy which is exactly where we need them to be for the spring semester," Skinner said. "We've started this semester off with nice healthy numbers in our residential system."
Southeast sophomore Noah Coates admits he wasn't thrilled about paying to live on campus his first two years of college.
"I thought man I'm going to be locked down under this contract for two years," Coates said. "I can just save a whole bunch of money going to get an apartment."
But after experiencing the on-campus community for four semesters, Coates said he enjoys connecting with his peers and being within walking distance of classes, the rec center, and sporting arenas.
"It is a comfortable option as far as having all of the university's resources right outside your doorstep," Coates said. "I would suggest to other people in my same situation to definitely consider living on campus again."
After losing $3.43 million in state cuts last year and a 9 percent reduction in fiscal year 2018, Gov. Eric Greitens recently proposed another substantial cut of $68 million to all public colleges and universities in Missouri for fiscal year 2019.
One of the methods that Southeast used to compensate for the loss in funding was to increase the average combined room and board rate by 2.51-percent.
Skinner said that money helps fund Residental LIfe including its student program and activities.
"We need the students to live on campus, absolutely, in order to be able to help us to have this office," Skinner said. "Once our student numbers start to decrease then that means fewer dollars for us to have the staffing and to provide the opportunities to the students to live on campus."
She added that new options for student housing off campus means that university leaders still have to work to keep costs down.
"We know that we need to stay competitive with institutions that we consider our peers," Skinner said. "So that we're looking to see what they're doing as well what is happening locally."
Coates said that he is planning to continue living on campus his junior year, and he was filled with a sense of pride after realizing that money he puts toward room and board goes right back to the university.
"I'm all for supporting my school and supporting the students that go here," Coates said. "It makes me feel good that you know me along with many other students can all just come together and just put our money back into the school we're studying at and that we love so much."
Southeast's room and board rate proposal for the next fiscal year will be present to the Board of Regents later this month.