New Paltz Top Five: Students open up about the benefits of living on campus during COVID-19

As our campus community prepares for spring, we’re taking time to reflect on the fall 2020 semester, focusing on areas of success that we can sustain and expand in the new year.

We asked New Paltz students who lived on campus in fall 2020 what they thought were the most valuable aspects of their on-campus experience. Here’s what they had to say.

Even if your classes are all online,
living on campus offers the best learning environment

“The best thing about being on campus is having access to internet, printing, the gym and being able to study in academic buildings. It helps with your workflow and being productive.”

– Cole Sporcic ’21 (Physics & Astronomy)

We heard it over and over again: Having access to computer labs, printers, 24/7 WiFi and lots of quiet spaces to study and work was the top perk of on-campus life for many of our students in fall 2020.

These opinions match with some recent research into how college students across the country have been adapting to the pandemic.

American Campus Communities’ Fall 2020 Student Resident Report found that students who live on campus felt about as confident in their ability to succeed academically in 2020 as they did in 2019 – 85% this year, compared to 86% last year – suggesting that COVID-19 had a minimal impact on academic confidence for students who live on campus.

On the other hand, a Strada Education Network survey of students who live off-campus recorded 58% of respondents saying they were having a hard time keeping up academically, and 56% who said it’s been a challenge to find space to study.

Campus is one of the safest places to be during a pandemic

“I really appreciate how well New Paltz worked to contain the virus this semester, and even though the circumstances were unfortunate I was still able to make friends safely!”

– Megan Young ’24 (Visual Arts Education)

We get it: Some of the policies in place on campus this fall were stricter than those used on other college campuses in New York and across the country. We required students to get tested multiple times, limited access inside residence halls and pivoted campus eateries away from in-person dining.

These temporary regulations are not ideal, and we all look forward to a time when campus operations can return to normal. That said, the outcomes speak for themselves:

  • Only 25 resident students tested positive this fall, out of more than 1,600 who lived on campus
  • A 0.36% positivity rate for our on-campus testing, well below the statewide average and one of the lowest rates in the SUNY system
  • Just three instances of person-to-person transmission inside residence halls all semester, all related to a small initial outbreak in late August

Being on campus means living in a community where you know everyone is working together to prevent the spread of the virus. The American Campus Communities Fall 2020 Student Resident Report found that 96% of on-campus students nationwide report complying with mask and social distancing mandates.

More than just a room:
The College provides holistic care for on-campus students

“You can receive resources immediately (either virtual or in-person) and interact with others who resonate with what you are going through.”

– Ashly Garcia ’21 (Sociology)

On-campus students get access to support structures that help with general well-being: Everything from nutritious food, to exercise options at the Athletic & Wellness Center and outdoor spaces around campus, to the Student Health Service and the Psychological Counseling Center.

The College also has a proven process for caring for the small number of students who need to quarantine or isolate due to COVID-19 exposure. Resident students in quarantine/isolation get daily food deliveries, a micro-fridge, laundry and trash service, and maybe most important, regular health and mental health check-ins (including the occasional therapy dog visit!).

There’s still lots to do on campus!

“I like that I was able to be in the presence of my peers and to laugh with my people. Those programs and events give you the college experience.”

– Jaden Robinson ’21 (Digital Media Production; Black Studies)

Across campus, students, faculty and staff worked to continue providing students with safe opportunities to learn, engage and have fun together.

Just scanning the past events list on ENGAGE shows numerous and diverse offerings like club activities, arts events, movie and game nights, academic lectures and athletic competitions that took place this semester. Expect many more like this in spring 2021!

We were able to offer many of these with an in-person component, giving on-campus students safe options for getting out of their rooms and into some uplifting social situations. Even our virtual events run more smoothly on campus, with technological infrastructure that helps reduce those awkward pauses on Zoom chats.

Students who lived on campus in fall 2020
had “amazing” experiences

“I loved living on campus this semester. Although it had its challenges, I had an amazing time. I learned how to be independent and I also made so many amazing friends! I loved getting to learn new things and hang out with my friends whenever I wanted to.”

– Madeleine Barkman ’21

For all the reasons above and many more, there’s something about living on campus that just works well for many New Paltz students.

The College understands that students have many reasons – personal, financial, health-based or some combination of factors – about where they choose to live while they pursue their education.

Living on campus may not be a perfect fit for every one of the students we serve, but it’s been great to hear from so many who choose to be part of our residential community this fall, who overcame the challenges of the pandemic and found sources of joy and comfort in campus life.

Want to learn more? Visit the Department of Residence Life online, or contact them at (845) 257-4444 or to get stared.