The Rent is Too Damn High party, lead by Jimmy McMillan, a New York gubernatorial candidate, struck a chord with many college students because of his outrageous demeanor and humorous rhetoric. However, students may have another reason besides humor to relate to MacMillan’s stance.
Gustavus students may not realize the costs of their housing. Dorm rooms (Norelius Hall, Complex, Pittman Hall, Sohre Hall, Rundstrom Hall and doubles in Uhler Hall) cost $5,400 per year, or $600 per month per person.
If a student opts to live in one of the rooms with a surcharge, such as Southwest Hall or Uhler Hall triple rooms, the cost increases. Houses and apartments (like those in College View Apartments or Southwest Hall) cost $7,150 per year, or almost $800 per month. The increased price gets you more space and a kitchen and a bathroom that only those living in the apartments share.
Senior History and Political Science Major Jacob Lundborg is the parliamentarian in Student Senate and was a member of the housing committee last year. The housing committee did a lot of work with surcharges last year. “It bothers me because I don’t think students understand surcharges … [I]t’s not explained to you when you’re a prospective student. They don’t really make it clear,” Lundborg said.
Gustavus is a residential college, and students are required to live on campus for all four years. Students receive off-campus permission only because the school does not have enough beds to accommodate all students. The purpose of this residential community is “really to be partners with the academic side to educate and develop students,” Director of Residential Life Charlie Strey said.
The college has a strong incentive to keep students on campus in order to keep rooms full, as well. “The college, in using its resources properly, will do everything it can to maximize its different revenue, including maximizing our revenue in our residence halls, as far as having those assets full,” Vice President of Finance and Treasurer Ken Westphal said.
While the cost of dorm rooms is high, on campus residents receive additional benefits that they may not consider. Strey cited many benefits, including proximity to campus amenities, the staff of Residential Life, phone, Internet, gas, electricity, laundry, computer labs and recreational equipment.
“Clearly from the standpoint of costs, something that is going to be different than other places relates to a safety standpoint. One thing we finished several years ago was getting all of our residence halls sprinkled. We spend a certain amount of money just making sure our facilities are maintained,” Westphal said.
Junior Biology Major Anna Yost experienced the benefits of a residential college during a recent visit to the emergency room. She was driven to the hospital by Campus Safety at 3:00 a.m. “The hospital contacted student services, and right away Charlie Strey was there, asking if I was OK and I if I needed anything. He went to my room and got the things I needed and took care of me. He was very kind and helpful. It made me very grateful to go to Gustavus,” Yost said.
Strey explained the qualitative benefits a residential college provides in four different categories: belonging, knowledge, clarification of one’s values and self-responsibility. “It’s about creating those environments to foster exploration,” Strey said.
Junior Management Major Bryce Bintzler lives off campus. He shares a house with one other roommate. “I love it. Privacy is unbelievable. There is no true privacy when you live with someone else in a dorm room,” Bintzler said.
“I’m living a luxury life. I’m only living with one other roommate in an off-campus house,” Bintzler said.
He has seen some of the downsides to living off campus, such as taking out the garbage, shoveling snow and unexpected problems such as the hot water heater going bad.
Overall, Bintzler has found the off-campus experience to be positive. “When I graduate, I will be able to live in a house by myself and have no issues,” Bintzler said.
Costs of living off-campus can vary depending on the cost of many factors, such as utilities. The cost of housing for three students is shown in the chart below.
As far as on-campus living, many colleges in the MIAC have similar housing options available at more reasonable prices.
College of St. Benedict (CSB) has a similar four-year residence plan and has apartments similar to those in Southwest Hall, with two bedrooms, a bathroom and a kitchen designed to accommodate four students. The cost of these apartments are $4,940 yearly, compared to $7,300 at Gustavus. Comparable apartments at Augsburg College, which houses many of its students on campus, cost $4,914.
Not all colleges require students to live on campus, and some even think living off campus is a good experience for students to have.
Concordia College does not require its students to live on-campus. On their Residential Life website, the college claims that living off-campus is “a great way to get used to living on your own—juggling the responsibilities of budgeting your housing, food and utility expenses and relating to a landlord.”
While self-responsibility is a pillar of Gustavus’ mission, as a residential college, Strey said that this responsibility can be explored in more ways than just living on your own, such as paying your own phone bill or writing out and delivering the check for tuition to the financial aid office.
In the end, there are benefits and detriments to living off- campus. With housing signups starting in February, students should be aware of their options.