BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- A new study from the IU School of Education has demonstrated that first-year students of color perceive a more positive campus environment when they choose their roommate, as opposed to being matched with a roommate by the institution.
The study is among the first to examine the recent trend of colleges and universities preventing incoming students from choosing their roommates. The policy changes are designed to promote diverse interactions among their student body. The new study, published in The Journal of Higher Education, focuses on how roommate choice influences diverse interactions and perceptions of the campus environment.
A review of data collected from nearly 15,000 first-year students attending 76 institutions who responded to the National Survey of Student Engagement found that restricting roommate choice is not an effective means to promote interactions between students with different backgrounds. There was no difference in the frequency of discussions with diverse others between those who chose a roommate and those who were assigned a roommate by the institution.
The study also revealed that Asian, Black and multiracial students who chose their roommate(s) perceived a more positive campus environment than their same-race peers who were assigned a roommate by their institution. This effect was not observed for White or Latinx students. What's more, the data demonstrated that students of color were substantially less likely to choose their roommate(s) than were white students, indicating that helping incoming students find a suitable roommate may be a pathway to improving the campus environment and, ultimately, degree completion for underrepresented students.