The U is supposedly 87% commuter. How does this impact social life, etc?

We’ve heard that the U is primarily a commuter school and students leave campus as much as possible. How does this impact the social life, participation in clubs, etc? Does anyone have specific experience they can share?

Also, since the U doesn’t require anyone to live on campus, what percent of each grade lives off campus?

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Also interested in this topic.

@HMom16: Thank you for posting / starting this thread.

We visited a few weeks ago and it didn’t feel like a commuter school. The dorms are full with freshman, and most upperclassmen live off campus.

The area around the school is part of SLC though and it doesn’t have an area that is all college kids with bars and run down houses. There is no State Street like at U Wisconsin or the Hill at CU Boulder.


I don’t know where that statistic comes from but since ~30% of undergrads are (originally) from OOS, that can’t be correct (if by “commuter” you mean local in-state students).

There’s housing on campus for about 4000 students, plus another 1000 or so in off-campus apartments just down the hill (excluding another 1500 or so in grad apartments) and about 4500 freshmen. So I think a bit over 50% of freshmen live on campus (anyone who wants to can do so). After that honors students can get housing if they want it reasonably easily, most others usually rent houses or apartments, some close to campus, some further away. A few hundred students live in the Greek houses. External rentals are usually a bit cheaper than university ones.

D has three different social groups, her closest friends in her scholarship group (since they all live together), then also her sorority and her major. Her friend group takes a lot of weekend trips (particularly skiing and backpacking), and has stayed for the summer to do things together (climbing, rafting, hiking, etc). They often rent AirBnBs or stay in friends’ cabins if it’s too cold to camp. Their go-to social center this year has been the climbing gym (not least because it’s been open all year).


According to the CDS, the % of freshman living on campus is:

2018-2019: 54%
2019-2020: 53%
2020-2021: 48%

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It certainly did not have a commuter feel when we visited. If anything we felt the percentage of commuters was a plus. It keeps a big school feeling a bit smaller.


It is not unusual for only 25% of students, mostly freshmen, to live on a big college campus. That’s all the school has dorms for. A majority of upperclassmen live close to campus in apartments, Greek housing (that might be privately owned and not on-campus), houses, etc. They aren’t commuting to campus but are walking, biking, taking the local bus.

At CU Boulder only about 25% live ‘on’ campus, but those in Greek housing and apartments and houses on the Hill are much closer to the classroom buildings than those in the biggest ‘on’ campus housing, Williams Village. Willie Villie student ‘commute’ by bus (or walk the long walk).


At CU-Boulder about 27% live on campus and about 34% in Greek housing, while at Utah 14% live on campus and about 14% live in Greek housing.

Utah has a reputation as a commuter school which is changing slowly. According to a post above, fewer than 50% of freshmen live on campus at the University of Utah.

Where do these stats come from? They can’t possibly be true. As I noted above there are about 4000 beds on campus which is more than 14% of the 24.5K undergrads (including part time students) and more like 20-25% of full time students, There are also far fewer in Greek housing, since there are only ~1600 members of fraternities and sororities in total ( and less than half live in the houses.

There was a dip below 50% of freshmen on campus in 2020-21 but that’s a COVID effect (no point in paying for housing if all your classes were remote). They added over 900 beds in the new honors dorm in fall 2020 (dorms were de-densified this year and have had spare space available all year) so I think they will have well over 50% of freshmen on campus in fall 2021.


@Twoin18 wrote: “24.5K undergrads (including part time students)”

I did not include any of the 6,300 part-time students commuter students.

Maybe some Greek members live in university housing.

Regardless, your post raises awareness of the large number of part-time commuter students which indicates that the commuter community is even larger than discussed.

Yes, but note that a not insignificant fraction of these part-time students are not “commuters” in the traditional sense, and are never even visible to the full time undergrads. There was a fairly extensive online course infrastructure even before COVID and there is a center in Sandy (30 mins south) where many of the evening courses for working adults take place.

My point about Greek life was that not even 14% of students are Greek, so saying 14% of students live in Greek housing has no basis in reality, just like the statement at the top of the thread that incorrectly suggests 87% of students are “commuters”.

Yes there are plenty of local students, and more Utah high school graduates stay in state for college than in any other state, because it is cheap and families are large. And most of the state’s population is in the Salt Lake Valley, so many of those families are in driving distance.

But as a percentage, there are more OOS students (30% and increasing) than a lot of other flagships. And a kid coming from OOS is unlikely to notice much difference to many other flagships with all having the option to live on campus the first year and most moving off campus after that, because it is cheaper to do so. The main difference we noticed to the UCs was that the dorms in Utah are vastly superior and much cheaper, and the same was true for off-campus apartments.

Only 13% of CU is Greek and that includes the pre professional greek orgs. I think that stat is supposed to be 34% of the traditional greek frats/sorority members live in their house.

Also, it is estimated that 10k students commute into Boulder for school, so maybe it’s more common for students to spread out away from the school after freshman year.

According to the Common Data Set filed by the University of Colorado-Boulder: 13% of freshman men join fraternities. 12% of all undergrad men are in a frat. 22% of all undergraduate women belong to a sorority.

With respect to the University of Utah: OP check out Section F Student Life of the Common Data Set. Only 12% of all students live on campus.

The Common Data Set filed by the University of Utah states otherwise = 14% of all undergrads have Greek membership (8% in sororities & 6% in frats).

OP’s 87% figure probably comes from the Common Data Set filed by the University of Utah which shows that just 12% of all undergrads live on campus & that 88% live off campus.

It’s not possible for 34% of students to live in Greek housing at CU. It isn’t even possible for 34% of Greeks to live in Greek housing. Maybe 1500 students total out of 30,000.

There are 11 sororities with houses. Most of those houses sleep 50-75 people. Probably 800 total live in sorority houses.

Most fraternities aren’t recognized as student organizations so I don’t know how the university is counting them. Some have houses, but some only house 12, others 30.

But the point is that big universities usually only have freshmen living on campus (about 25% of students) and then lots and lots of apartments and houses in the area. Those students aren’t commuting to a different community every night. They are on/near campus all the time.


Just because a student doesn’t live in college housing does not make them a commuter. At most big schools, most upperclassmen live near but not on campus. That isn’t commuting and does not diminish the undergrad experience or vibrancy of campus life the way a true large commuter student body does. The rest is quibbling about semantics.


Regardless, Utah is a commuter school trying to change that rep as more non-residents (especially Californians) discover the University of Utah.

Of course, that depends upon one’s definition of “commuter school”.

Concern about commuter schools may focus on what is campus life like after the class day & on the weekends.

" University of Utah has a total undergraduate enrollment of 24,485, with a gender distribution of 53% male students** and 47% female students. At this school, 13% of the students live in college-owned, -operated or -affiliated housing and 87% of students live off campus."

This doesn’t make it a commuter campus if there are private apartments, Greek housing, houses to rent near the campus. It’s a big D1 school with football, basketball, soccer on weekends.

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Assuming there is the same number of sorority and fraternity members…

You need to average the frat percentage and the sorority percentage instead of adding them together. So, the greek membership at Utah is about 7%

That’s true. But campus life on weekends when you have great skiing 30 minutes away and national parks in every direction is going to be very different to an isolated small town, and different again to a university in a major city. That’s really nothing to do with commuters when there’s a critical mass of (at least 10,000) students who live on or around campus and aren’t going home to their parents.

It does have a lot to do with how many students have (and use) a car, and my number one piece of advice would be to take a car if you have that option, because the percentage of students who go more than say 30 miles from campus in a given week or month during term time is undoubtedly way higher at Utah than most other universities.

It would be interesting to compare to somewhere like CU Boulder which also has mountains and skiing and a national park. From what I’ve seen, Utah students probably do travel around more than the students we know at Boulder. Maybe the car-oriented culture has something to do with Utah being a commuter school 20 years ago (which for example has meant that parking permits have always been cheap, with plenty of spaces available), but it’s not really about how many are commuters nowadays.