For years, George Mason University has been acclaimed for being one of the most diverse schools in the nation, bridging the distance between local and international students. Yet with each new semester, there seems to be a growing divide between two particular types of students — those who live on-campus and those who commute.

“When you’re a commuter, the only time you spend on campus is car-park-walk-class-walk-car-drive-home. You don’t hear or see that much,” said junior Becca Marshall, who drives about a half-hour from her home in Reston to Fairfax for classes.

This new divide is creating a social rift between commuters and on-campus residents, where interaction is limited.

“Besides classes I wouldn’t say there is that much [interaction],” said Marshall. “Everyone has their friends, and I’m sure some commute and some don’t.”

Living at home with parents or family members can be a hassle, especially if a curfew is involved.

“The people who live with their parents don’t have the nightlife like on-campus residents,” said sophomore nursing major Tina Hughes, who resides in the Chesapeake residential neighborhood. “There’s not a lot of opportunities to meet people.”

Many commuters have a good reason for not living on campus. Most have the responsibility of a job or are trying to save money, especially with the cost of tuition skyrocketing.

“It felt silly to pay so much more money to live 30 minutes away,” said Marshall.

For many upperclassmen, choosing to rent a house or apartment with friends off-campus is common, but still not as convenient as living on-campus.

“Because I lived on-campus prior to this semester, I probably know more on-campus residents than commuters,” said senior biology major Aaron Phillips, who commutes about five miles to campus via bicycle. “I miss being able to wake up 15 minutes before class starts and walking in right on time for the lecture. Everything I do now has to be worked out and arranged beforehand. Still, I really like living off campus and having a place [mostly] to my own.”

Although Mason is one of the largest universities in Virginia with over 18,000 undergraduate students, only about 5,000 live on campus. For many students, the benefits of living on-site outweigh the negatives.

“You have so many more resources [on campus] — office hours, the library … you’re just around people more,” said Hughes.
However, even if there was increased interaction among these students, there will always be some who like to remain more secluded from university life.

“I know plenty of social commuters, and I know plenty of reclusive on-campus residents. You’re going to be the same person you’ve always been, regardless of where you’re living,” said Phillips.