Emma Puftahl – Opinion Columnist
I’m going to give it to you straight: I do not like our housing options. They suck. As someone whose summer job does include going in some rental properties, so I’ve seen an array of options. I understand that we are a residential campus, meaning we are expected to live on campus all four years. This feels like a very outdated rule. I completely understand having underclassmen, mostly first-year students being required to live on campus. Many, many colleges do this and it makes sense. It’s a way to get one adjusted to college life. For the same reason, seniors (and we could argue upperclassmen in general) should be allowed to live off-campus. It is a way to get adjusted to post-college life.
Living on campus in a college “apartment” does not compare to the real thing. The real rental experience is different. I work on apartments that get renovated before the next resident moves in. The renovated apartments are slightly more expensive per month. You get charged for what you get. On-campus, we are all charged the same for vastly different living conditions. Yes, sometimes false advertising happens with rentals. (They have the “show” apartment). Other times, what you see is the exact apartment that you get. As a First-year, I was shown Pittman but lived in Sohre, and they were not the same experiences. One had better living spaces, better bathrooms, better maintained common areas. These are very similar buildings, but one is way more updated than the other. They should not be the same cost.
My largest grievance is with the overall living costs of campus housing. Let’s say you and your one roommate get a two-bedroom apartment. In this area, you could expect rent and utilities to come out to around $1100 a month. Add $200 for food per month, because why not. $1300 per month between you and your roommate. Over twelve months, this comes to a grand total of $15,600. A dorm on campus is around $7,000 a year. You share a bedroom with one person and share a bathroom with between ten and twenty people. Your roommate and you combined come in at around $14,000 for nine months of housing. This does not include your respective meal plans. With meal plans (and maybe your parking spot) included, it costs about $20,000 total to live with a roommate on-campus. I currently live in a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment with four people total. This costs about $8500 each for one school year, or $34,000 a year. We spent a downpayment on a house for one year of housing and we share bedrooms.
I am very involved in my college finances and payments. I know what I am paying for. I am very lucky to have been able to pay quite a bit of the cost per semester. With COVID and stimulus checks, I only needed around $5,000 in loans this year, more specifically this semester. My point in sharing this information is that the $5,000 I had to take a loan on is almost the exact difference between the cost of living off-campus instead of on-campus. My major frustrations are financially based. Nobody wants to take out loans. ( If you do, are you okay? Do you need a hug?)
I’m almost literally begging Gustavus to give me independence by asking to live off-campus. I have proposed to so many people just so I can live off-campus. I want to save money. I also don’t like how our housing works. I understand that many people like having their dorms where they don’t have to worry if something breaks and that having a meal plan relieves stress. I desperately want to experience these renting struggles, and I want to experience them when I can still be considered a dumb college renter.
I’ve fixed more things in my apartment this year than maintenance has. If they fixed something, it was because I specifically asked them to do whatever was needed. Our heat was “broken” twice. The first time, communication about when the heat will actually turn on was the issue (55 degrees Fahrenheit for outdoor temperature). The second time was because one window wouldn’t shut all of the way so I had to ask for a lock to make it shut completely, plus I also put plastic covers on our windows. This made a five-degree difference in temperature in our apartment.
I do want to thank the Physical Plant for having to run around campus and help solve our problems. I know we need them to run this campus smoothly. But I do believe that we pay too much for the quality of living spaces we actually live in. I also think our current system isn’t setting us up for independent living. I should mention that I know my numbers are estimations, but I will argue that they are close enough to prove my point. I’m ready for a transition from college to adulthood, while still being in college. Gustavus, let us live off-campus.