The U.S. News Short List, separate from our overall rankings, is a regular series that magnifies individual data points in hopes of providing students and parents a way to find which undergraduate or graduate programs excel or have room to grow in specific areas. Be sure to explore The Short List: College, The Short List: Grad School and The Short List: Online Programs to find data that matters to you in your college or graduate school search.
Given the vast number of educational options in the U.S., it should come as no surprise that many students stay close to home when choosing a college. In fact, roughly 56% of first-time, full-time freshmen selected schools that were 100 miles or less from home, according to The American Freshman, a national survey conducted in 2019 by researchers at the University of California–Los Angeles.
Other research suggests that income plays a role in whether a student stays nearby or attends a college far from home, with those from high-earning families more likely to enroll at an institution that is a greater distance away. Considering the already significant costs of college, staying close to home is often a good financial decision, with students able to take advantage of in-state tuition at public schools.
Among the 10 National Universities — schools offering a full range of undergraduate majors, plus master’s and doctoral programs — that had the most freshmen commuters in 2019-2020, an average of about 74% of first-time, first-year students lived off campus or commuted. Of the 316 ranked National Universities that provided this data to U.S. News in an annual survey, that figure was highest at California State University–Fresno, where 82% of first-year students lived off campus or commuted.
Among all ranked National Universities that reported this data, the average was much lower, with about 20% of first-year students living off campus or commuting. Many colleges mandate that students live on campus during their freshman year, and some extend that requirement to all four years of school.
The 10 National Universities with the most commuters are a geographic mix, spread broadly across the U.S. Altogether , schools from California, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Texas are represented on this list.
Below is a list of the 10 National Universities with the highest percentages of first-year students who lived off campus or commuted for the 2019-2020 school year. Unranked schools, which did not meet certain criteria required by U.S. News to be numerically ranked, were not considered for this report. This data pertains to the 2019-2020 academic year that began prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which may affect the number of students who choose to live off campus or commute in the coming academic year.
|SCHOOL (STATE)||PERCENTAGE OF FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS LIVING OFF CAMPUS OR COMMUTING||U.S. NEWS RANK|
|California State University–Fresno||82%||196 (tie)|
|University of Michigan–Flint||78%||298-389|
|Florida International University||75%||187 (tie)|
|University of Nevada–Las Vegas||75%||258 (tie)|
|Rutgers University–Newark (NJ)||73%||118 (tie)|
|University of New Orleans||73%||298-389|
|University of New Mexico||72%||187 (tie)|
|University of Texas–San Antonio||71%||298-389|
|University of Illinois–Chicago||69%||112 (tie)|
|Adelphi University (NY)||67%||170 (tie)|
Don’t see your school on the list? Access the U.S. News College Compass to find off-campus living and commuting data, complete rankings and much more. Sign up for the U.S. News Extra Help: College Admissions free email newsletter to receive expert advice twice a month.
U.S. News surveyed more than 1,800 colleges and universities for our 2020 survey of undergraduate programs. Schools self-reported myriad data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body, among other areas, making U.S. News’ data the most accurate and detailed collection of college facts and figures of its kind. While U.S. News uses much of this survey data to rank schools for our annual Best Colleges rankings, the data can also be useful when examined on a smaller scale. U.S. News will now produce lists of data, separate from the overall rankings, meant to provide students and parents a means to find which schools excel, or have room to grow, in specific areas that are important to them. While the data comes from the schools themselves, these lists are not related to, and have no influence over, U.S. News’ rankings of Best Colleges, Best Graduate Schools or Best Online Programs. The off-campus living and commuting data above is correct as of July 20, 2021.
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