ST. CLOUD -- St. Cloud State University has announced a major policy decision for student housing. President Robbyn Wacker released a statement Tuesday saying beginning with the fall semester next year the school will require on-campus housing for incoming first-year students.

Wacker says they began exploring a live on campus requirement this past summer.

She says this fall the university has had a 5.2 percent increase in the retention of first-year students, the largest single-year increase since at least the fall of 1999.

Jennifer Sell Matzke is the Associate Dean of Students and Executive Director of Residential Life at SCSU. She says this new policy will help students be more successful as they first come to college.

"We know that living on campus for first-year students is an important success indicator for them not only academically but socially. We are really excited about the change that was announced today [Tuesday]."

Sell Matzke says there will be several circumstances that will opt a student out of the requirement, especially if they already live in the St. Cloud metro area.

"Students who live within a 35-mile radius of campus will automatically be exempted from this requirement. We are also exempting individuals who have custody of a minor child or dependent, folks who are married or in a domestic partnership, we're exempting veterans or individuals with a  current active military status, we're exempting individuals who are over 21 years of age, and of course we have just a general opportunity for folks who feel that they want to apply for an exemption."

Sell Matzke says this general exemption form can be filled out by students who don't meet any of the automatic exemption criteria. St. Cloud State University can then decide on a case by case basis if an exemption should be approved.

The concept of having first-year students required to live on campus is not new. Sell Matzke says several other Minnesota State institutions already have this policy in place.

"Several of our peer institutions in the state of Minnesota already have a live-on requirement. I believe Bemidji State, Moorhead State and Southwest State already have live-on requirements as well as many of our peer and aspirational institutions. This is not new within our field of higher education."

Sell Matzke says she believes SCSU is an outlier for not already having this policy in place.

SCSU has continued to face an enrollment decline in recent years. Wacker has mentioned on several occasions that student enrollment and retention will continue to be the university's top priority.