One hundred and twenty years ago, Russell Conwell founded Temple as a school for Philadelphia residents to commute to from their own backyards. One hundred and twenty years later, commuters still hold the majority in population.
“Historically, a lot of the Temple students were working their way through school, not even necessarily out of high school,” said Carol Ann Harris, bibliographic assistant at Paley Library’s Special Collection and Rare Books Department and a Temple class of ’77 graduate. “Some were older and had families. As it started, Temple was always set up to be convenient to working people. It wasn’t necessarily what we think of when we look at colleges today.”
Although Temple maintains its Philadelphia resident population, one-third of the population hails from out of state.
“In the last 10 years, there has been a definite push towards campus housing,” Harris said. “Temple really does seem to be thinking about activities for students to do here like Liacouras Walk and Avenue North. I would guess there would be more things going on in the evening than there used to be, and that would foster more people wanting to live here. They reinforce each other.”
Temple, however, only provides housing for freshmen, most sophomores and some transfer students. Because of that, a large portion of the student body inevitably commutes.
Junior political science and economics double major Anna Walker is one such student. Last year she lived on campus, but she now lives in the International House of Philadelphia. She said she has adjusted well to the change.
“I prefer living off campus because it makes my time on campus all the more productive,” Walker said. “When I go to campus, I pack everything that I need for that day in my bag – computer, lunch, books, gym gear, etc. When I’m at school, I work, and at home, I relax. It’s a nice change in lifestyle. If the upperclassmen housing was more affordable than [University Village] or Kardon Atlantic, I’d take it. It is convenient not to have to commute.”
There are also those students who commute to Temple for the entirety of their undergraduate educations. Junior elementary and special education major Colleen Pacenski lives in Bucks County with her family and commutes to Main Campus Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and to Ambler Campus Tuesdays and Thursdays via the R2 Warminster.
“I would love to live on campus but financially I am not able to,” Pacenski said. “I pay for my schooling and I don’t have a co-signer for my student loans so everything comes out of my pocket.”
Unlike Walker, Pacenski said she feels alienated from Temple’s campus life.
“I definitely feel separate from the campus,” she said. “It’s tough getting there because I work in the evenings and most of the organizations meet later in the day. I’ve never heard of any commuter events [either]. I think they should implement some extra things for commuters because events are always at night and walking on campus at night isn’t safe, especially to the train. I don’t want to take the chance.”
Perhaps Pacenski shouldn’t feel so out of the loop.
According to Associate Vice President of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Ainsley Carry, commuters make up 80 percent of Main Campus, and of the 25,000 students enrolled, less than 5,000 live in residence halls.
“Within the Division of Student Affairs, all of our programs and services are available to all students – residential and commuter,” Carry said. “We do not distinguish between commuters and residential students when delivering programs and service.”
Kayla Hilliard can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.