Off-campus students show extra drive for a Webster education


For Jake Niehaus, senior advertising major, driving to campus for class can be somewhat of a day-to-day adventure.
“It takes me about 20 minutes to a half hour on a good day with no traffic,” Niehaus said. “I usually take (highway) 55 to 270 then to 44, but when traffic is bad the route usually is horrid.”
The longest amount of time he’s spent driving to campus is one hour. Niehaus’ earliest class starts at 8:30 a.m. on Monday and Wednesday. He wakes up at 6:30 a.m. to be on time for his 8:30 class. He said he can’t take his regular route those two days because traffic can be really bad in the morning.
More than 80 percent of Webster’s undergraduate students are commuters and nearly 100 percent of graduate students are commuters.  According to the university’s new MAPWorks (Making Achievement Possible) survey, 44 percent of commuters feel that transportation is an issue and they may not  be able to arrive to class on time.
According to, 19,372 students are enrolled in Webster University. Out of those students, only 700 live on campus.
Sara Tetley, director of first year experience program, said one-third of first time freshmen are commuters and 280 out of 470 freshmen live on campus.
“For the past 11 years our (retention) average has been 79.63 percent,” Justin Barton, retention initiatives coordinator said. “We are collecting data now, so the number could shift.”
When asked for a retention rate break down of residents and students who commute, Barton said, “As of right now, no information is classified that way, but in the future we will be able to know what’s going on with the commuters and the residents.”
Though Niehaus may not like getting to school so early, he does like having his choice of parking spots — something hard to find in the afternoon.
Before making his morning commute to Webster in his 2002 Toyota Camry, Niehaus downloads new music the night before so he has something to listen to.
Niehaus started going to Webster in fall 2009, and said he chose the university for a couple of reasons.
“My mom always wanted to go to Webster, so she would always tell me how much she loved the area and what the school offered,” Niehaus said. “But, what really got me was how good of an arts school it is.”
Meredith Bossanova, senior creative writing major, lived on campus three out of the four years she has attended Webster. But, due to the rise in tuition and room and board fees, it became too expensive for her to live on campus.
“True, I take out student loans in order to afford Webster as-is, but that’s money that I’m going to have to pay back,” Bossanova said. “As much as paying $35 a week in gas hurts my wallet now, taking out close to an extra $10,000 in loans to live on campus will hurt my wallet much more in the future.”
Bossanova, who works on campus as an IT representative at the Help Desk, commutes from St. Charles. It takes her about 30 to 40 minutes to get to Webster. At times, rush hour traffic on Interstate 270 has made the commute more than an hour long.
Both Niehaus and Bossanova agree Webster could change a few of things to become friendlier to commuters. Niehaus feels Webster should start closing the campus earlier if there are reports of inclement weather.
“Instructors should really lay off attendance policies if a student doesn’t feel like its safe to drive to class during a snow storm,” Niehaus said. “This is a huge pet peeve of mine. I also feel that Webster should realize that a good majority of students are commuters.”
Bossanova feels creating more parking lots instead of destroying existing lots would be helpful.
“Depending on the time of day and the day of the week, there are times when the entire garage is filled, and so are all of the parking lots available to students,” Bossanova said. “It really bothers me when I miss the first 15 to 20 minutes of a lecture that I would have been on-time to, had I not had to scavenger hunt around the campus to find a place to park my car.”
Jennifer Violett, assistant director of the university center and student activities and advisor for the Commuter Council, doesn’t want commuter students like Niehuas to have mixed emotions about feeling connected to campus.
“It makes me realize that there is always more work to be done,” Violett said. “We try to direct students, but it is impossible to know exactly the perfect way that will help each student.  All we can hope for is to get our name out there in as many ways possible and have students know that we are here for them.”
Despite the few issues Bossanova has with Webster, she said she feels like she chose the right university.
“I considered UMSL, SLU and Truman State, but Webster is one of the few universities I looked at that offered creative writing as a major,” Bossanova said. “Creative writing is something I’ve been pretty passionate about since I was a kid and, since I wanted to pursue it, having it as my major seemed ideal.”

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