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Main campuses vs. commuter campuses: Is there really a difference?

By: HANNAH DEMCHAK
Staff Writer

When college application time rolls around, many students find themselves in a bind trying to decide which university will be a perfect fit.

There are more than a hundred different options for colleges in Indiana ranging from community colleges and trade schools all the way to private universities and “main” campuses.

A majority of the people I knew in high school chose to leave Northwest or Central Indiana to head to some of those larger “main” campuses after graduation. Personally, a big school just wasn’t for me.

I am in my sophomore year of college at IU South Bend, and I have heard the phrase “You’re not getting the full college experience,” countless times. Campuses such as IUSB have a stigma attached to them. They are viewed as being a lesser version of a main campus, and many people actually believe that you will not get a fulfilling education or that you are just taking the easy way out by attending. Some people see a commuter campus as a gateway to ease the transition of high school to college.

While aspects of this stigma may hold truth, there are many benefits of going to a commuter campus rather than a main campus.

Most colleges require a full-time professor to obtain a Ph.D. in order to teach classes. This is true for Indiana University Bloomington and IUSB. The course material and curriculum for any class is exactly the same on both campuses. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that a main campus is giving its students a better education.

In fact, the level of difficulty in a class typically depends on the professor and what methods they use to teach their students the required material.

The benefit of attending IU South Bend is that it is much smaller than IU Bloomington, which means that the classrooms are much smaller versus lecture halls filled with 500 people. This provides the opportunity for students to have a more personal relationship with the professors, and it makes it a lot easier to get in contact with them if need be.

One of the biggest reasons that students choose a commuter campus over a main campus is cost. A majority of IUSB students live close to campus near their families and save money by living at home throughout their college years. IUSB has much cheaper tuition rates than IU Bloomington with IUSB’s full-time tuition rate per year being approximately $6,393 versus the main campus’s full-time yearly rate of $10,388—almost a $4,000 difference.

The cost of living on campus down in Bloomington is higher than living on campus in South Bend as well. Living in the dorms at IU Bloomington is $9,794 per year. To live in a furnished one bedroom apartment on IUSB’s campus complete with your own bathroom, kitchen and living room, the cost is $8,938 per year. You also have the option, at IU South Bend, of living in a two or four bedroom apartment in which the rates drop even lower.

While a large campus just wasn’t for me, plenty of other students enjoy them for a variety of reasons. There are many different ways for students to get involved on a main campus such as joining active fraternities and sororities, engaging in a broad range of sports or clubs, and enjoying a brand new place outside of their comfort zone far away from home.

Some people aren’t accustomed to that lifestyle, and that’s perfectly okay. I love the fact that I am attending a small school where I will still obtain an Indiana University degree and have the privilege of having special relationships with my peers and professors along the way. I am also close enough to home to where I can see my family whenever I would like. I think it is important for students to challenge the cliché idea of “the real college experience” because the truth is that college is what you make of it.

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