Students spend up to four hours on the road daily to attend Bethel
Culture | Chris DeWuske
Joseph Merboth is one of over 800 Bethel students who commutes to school from home every day. | Photo for The Clarion by Kristine Schmidt
It might come as a surprise to some that Bethel has a large commuter population. The community has a strong enough base that they are able to hold their own at the homecoming cheer and have a network of friends that the university facilitates.
Bekki Hince of Zimmerman drives an average of four hours a day to and from campus. She decided to attend Bethel because of its historically recognized nursing program.
“You talk to medical staff and they will tell you that Bethel is the best school to go to,” she says. “If this is the best in the state for what I want to do, why would I go somewhere else?”
As a mother of three, Hince is thankful her children understand the time it takes for her to continue her education. According to Hince, it can be a struggle to balance family time with studying for her classes.
For her, moving on-campus is not an option; it would uproot her family and her children’s education and would not be a cost-effective option in the long run.
Joseph Merboth of Chanhassen tells a slightly different story. “Part of it’s to save money,” he said. Because his brother attends Northwestern, he carpools to class.
Although Merboth does not live on-campus, he states that Bethel has done more than an adequate job making him part of the community. However, participating in campus events is more difficult. “It is tricky because I have a long drive, and I have to think about when I’m going to have time to get my homework done," he said.
To aid commuters, Bethel designated space in The Loft, which includes coffee, video games and couches. The general consensus is that students are unaware of The Loft.
“I think if more commuters knew about it, they would come up here," Hince said.
During orientation at Welcome Week, BSA staff worked to promote the space, reaching some, but not all, of the off-campus students.
While Merboth acknowledges the work Bethel has accomplished for its commuter population, he states that some academic activities can be a challenge. According to him, instructors generally do not keep students like himself in mind when assigning group work. Bethel should be “making sure the professors are all aware that some of us are commuters.”
"For the most part, Bethel does a good job trying to include us," he added.
Hince also has a similar perspective as a commuter. During her education, she has taken part in Bible study groups and Woven Lives to include herself in the community.
“I do feel like I am very accepted by not only my fellow students but also by the professors,” Hince said.
Bethel is currently working to meet the needs of over 800 commuter students. Off-campus students are encouraged to take part in commuter coffee sessions and other events to build connections with peers. For more information about commuter resources, contact Chris Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org.