Helping Commuter Students Succeed

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) finds that nearly 87 percent of college students commute to class. Yet, research about what students face and how they overcome those challenges tends to marginalize commuter students, focusing instead on 18- to 24-year-olds who live on campus.

Chief Librarian and Professor Maura Smale (New York City College of Technology, The Graduate Center, CUNY) and Associate Librarian for Information Services Mariana Regalado (Brooklyn College) aim to change that with their edited collection.

Academic Libraries for Commuter Students culls case studies from eight institutions around the U.S. that serve commuter students. They include CUNY; University of Colorado, Boulder; University of North Carolina, Charlotte; and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. 

Across nine chapters, contributors investigate the unique challenges commuter students face, so academic librarians can aid them in more specific ways. Students regularly cite the library as their favorite place to study, so it’s important that librarians know how to best service students when they’re on campus. As the contributors from UC Boulder explain, “[T]he library provided services not otherwise found on campus.” 

Beyond the burden of a commute—which for some students can often be quite lengthy—many face additional challenges. Commuter students tend to be first-generation college attendees, or immigrants, or come from a low-income household, or need to work full-time in order to support their educational goals. One chapter suggested offering family friendly rooms in the library so student-parents could use their time more productively. 

Learning about commuter students remains imperative to obtaining a more complete picture of college students, Smale and Regalado argue. “Supporting the success of our commuter students is integral to the mission of academic libraries and our commitment to social justice, as we work to enable students to participate fully as students, workers, members of their communities, and citizens of an increasingly complex world,” they write.

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Academic Libraries for Commuter Students: Research-Based Strategies
American Library Association, 2018

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Maura A. Smale (Chief Librarian and Professor) | Profile 1 | Profile 2
Mariana Regalado (Associate Librarian for Information Services) | Profile 1