Elizabeth A. Clark
Journal of College Student Development, Volume 53, Number 3, May-June
2012, pp. 477-481 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
For additional information about this article http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/csd/summary/v053/53.3.clark.html Access Provided by Purdue University at 02/25/13 4:09AM GMT
Research in Brief
Residential Density: The Effects of
Tripling College Students
Elizabeth A. Clark
Due to a greater number of students enrolling in higher educational institutions, an increase in demand for housing on college campuses exists putting a strain on infrastructure. In order to accommodate the students, some universities are tripling students in residential settings by putting three students in a room originally designed for two. This research investigated whether there are negative effects on students from tripling. Results revealed no differences on depression, anxiety, and stress scales between students who were tripled and those who were assigned double rooms (n = 141).
A peak in demand for college services is anticipated as the larger birth cohorts of the
1990s begin their collegiate careers. According to U.S. Census data, there were 15 million college students in 1994 (Bruno & Curry,
1996), and 16.6 million in 2003 (Shin,
2005). By 2006, there were 17.8 million students in degree-granting institutions with a projected increase of 13% over the next 11 years (Hussar & Bailey, 2008). Similar to the demands that universities encountered 30 years ago, many colleges currently face logistical and infrastructural challenges, particularly in providing adequate residential space for their enrolled students.
Research in the 1970s and 1980s sought to ascertain the impact of “tripling,” or housing three students in a space originally intended to house two, on several important aspects of the college experience. Investigators found that
Deborah Everhart increased residential density had a demonstrable negative effect on student academic performance (Glassman, Burkhart, Grant, &
Vallery, 1978; Karlin, Rosen, & Epstein, 1979;
Stokols, Ohlig, & Resnick, 1978). Additionally, increased residential density was found to be associated with inadequate adjustment to the college environment (Hughey, 1983), greater unhappiness (Karlin et al., 1979), worse mood (Zuckerman, Schmitz, & Yosha,
1977), increased interpersonal stress (Aiello,
Baum, & Gormley, 1981; Baron, Mandel,
Adams, & Griffen, 1976), and more frequent social avoidance (Glassman et al., 1978).
Gender differences were observed, with male students being more disturbed by residential crowding than their female peers (Ross,
Layton, Erickson, & Schopler, 1973; Walden,
Nelson, & Smith, 1981).
Given the importance of the extant research on the effects of tripling viewed within the context of currently increasing enrollments, this study sought to ascertain if some of the historically documented effects of tripling would be found in current student populations. Based on the research discussed previously, it was hypothesized that current students who were tripled would experience greater levels of depression, anxiety, and stress relative to students who were not tripled. A secondary hypothesis was that male students would be more negatively impacted by tripling than female students.
Elizabeth A. Clark is Staff Psychologist at University of New Haven. Shannon Jackson is Associate Director of
Counseling and Psychological Services at University of New Haven. Deborah Everhart is Director of Counseling and
Psychological Services at University of New Haven.
M ay/June 2012
vol 53 no 3
Research in Brief
The survey was posted at the beginning the eighth week that freshmen were in their