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Boston’s college students add vitality to city, natives say

While Boston natives may not always appreciate hordes of students clogging city sidewalks, many residents living amid Boston’s sea of college students said the out-of-state residents are valuable assets to the city.

Full-time Boston resident Sue Berger, a clinical associate professor of occupational therapy at Boston University, said during the summers the city “seems incomplete without students around.”

Berger, who has lived in Warren Towers for three years, said that while it is quieter and less crowded during summer vacations, she misses the “hustle [and] bustle” of the school year.

“I love the vibrant environment with many cultural, academic and social activities going on,” she said. “Living right here in Boston makes it easy for me to attend many of the plays, concerts or events that BU and the surrounding community has to offer.”

Berger is one of many Bostonians who said the increase in student population and out-of-state, part-time residents in the city helps add business revenue and social activity to the city.

Downtown Boston Business Improvement District President Rosemarie Sansone said in an email that students and faculty, especially from Emerson College and Suffolk University, are valuable to the district.

“We know they not only bring vitality to the area, but the students fill our restaurants and stores with added customers,” she said. “As long as there is a collaborative relationship and one that involves consistent communication with the local colleges, we all benefit.”

Organizations such as the Beacon Hill Civic Association offer discounts in an effort to engage the out-of-state student population with the permanent and long-time residents of the neighborhood, said BHCA Executive Director MaryLee Halpin.

Halpin said it is easy for people to give students a bad reputation and the BHCA tries to teach the students how to be good neighbors.

“Not a lot of students have grown up in tightly packed cities,” she said. “We want them to understand that noise is a very different thing in the middle of the city than in the suburbs.”

Boston resident and BU professor of film studies Roy Grundmann said although Boston re-populates with students once the school year starts in the fall, there are not as many college students in areas outside of college campuses, such as Ruggles or South Boston.

“I have always felt that the image of Boston being swamped by its college students during the school year is a little bit of a myth,” he said. “I lived in the South End [and] Back Bay area, where the presence of students is not felt very strongly at all.”

Grundmann said although the city is less crowded in the summers, which makes it easier for locals to get into restaurants, students increase business revenue and “make public life look more diverse.”

Halpin said there was not a time where she went into Starbucks in Beacon Hill that she did not see students.

“[Businesses] like having the students’ business,” she said. “There are stores that don’t appeal to students and ones that don’t appeal to residents.”

Since Boston is home to a combination of public and private schools, the student population consists of people from all over the country, said BU spokesman Colin Riley.

He said BU in particular has 18 percent of its undergraduates from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with out-of-state people and international students constituting the final 82 percent.

While the influx of out-of-state residents may pose more competition for college admissions, Riley said Massachusetts students are reviewed the same as anyone else applying.

“We look at each student individually,” he said. “Mass. students who are a great fit for BU can apply and get in like everyone else. That’s always how it’s been.”

Instead of looking at how Boston used to be, Halpin said Bostonians recognize that the city is changing and still want students as their neighbors.

“We really do understand that the city is very different from where a lot of people grew up,” she said. “Boston is a fabulous city and part of what makes it great is all the education here.”

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