Dorm-life is a staple of the college experience. It is supposed to be a fun and exciting time when you can make new friends and learn how to be independent.
Perhaps dorm living was once more beneficial, but now on-campus living has become an exploitative scheme for colleges to make a profit.
Colleges have a responsibility to provide housing options for their students, however, they should not instate policies that require students to live on campus.
San Diego State University’s new Sophomore QUEST program forces non-local freshmen and sophomores to live in campus housing. SDSU claims students who live on campus have better academic standings, higher retention and graduation rates due to the increased accessibility of campus resources. While there may be some benefits, a program like Sophomore QUEST completely overlooks the financial burden placed on students.
According to the College Board, the cost of housing at public universities is nearly double the cost since the 1980s. This school year, a nine month lease for campus housing at SDSU costs between $15,045 and $19,405 for freshmen and between $8,149 and $14,621 for sophomores depending on the meal plan, dorm building and number of roommates.
Although on-campus living is cheaper than the average rent of nearly $2,000 per month in San Diego, there are still affordable options for college students living off-campus. Many off-campus housing options around SDSU offer rent for under $1,000 per month.
Seeing how expensive campus living would be for my sophomore year, I searched for cheaper alternatives and found an apartment off Montezuma where the monthly rent would be just under $700. I would have had a full closet to myself, a bathroom shared with only one other person and a furnished kitchen to cook in.
Unfortunately, even if you were able to secure a place to live off-campus, SDSU makes it difficult to get out of the license agreement.
There is strict and specific criteria one must meet in order to qualify as exempt. Unless you are leaving SDSU, the easiest ways to get out of the contract would be showing proof of medical or financial hardships. Ridiculously, already having student loans or having to resort to taking out a loan does not qualify as a financial hardship.
This is subjective criteria and there are many other contributing factors as to why someone would opt out of campus housing. Even if one is able to get out of the contract, the SDSU housing website lists the cancellation fees which can cost thousands of dollars. The fee is based on the housing option they selected and how many days there are remaining in their contract.
As advertised, dorm rooms are smaller living spaces. However, SDSU uses many rooms meant for a double to house three students. My freshman dorm was a triple, but the previous year it had been a double along with many of the other dorm rooms on my floor, according to former residents of the dorm building.
While it is a doable living situation , it does create a cramped environment with minimal amounts of privacy. This brings up the issue of the cost varying more by the number of people in a room instead of the building and amenities in it.
In my freshman dorm, the newly renovated Zura building, triple rooms on the ends of the hall were significantly larger than the triples in the middle, but all triples pay the same rate regardless of room size. Even so, students in Zura were still better off than students paying the same rates to live in dorms that had not yet been renovated.
For sophomore housing, units with kitchenettes — including a microwave, cabinets and fridge — cost over a thousand dollars more than a housing unit with full size kitchens that has stovetops and ovens. The fact that SDSU offers housing options without functional kitchens to sophomores is bewildering. If sophomores are required to live on campus, a kitchen should be provided.
SDSU expects students to behave like adults and assert their independence. Yet, they don’t even adequately provide opportunities for students to take on responsibilities like grocery shopping and cooking. There are other rules enforced in the dorms that would not be in off-campus housing. Students are limited to checking in only two guests at a time and RA’s patrol around the dorms every few hours.
If you want to switch rooms, it will cost $100 to do so. The small spaces students live in can easily foster conflict among roommates, especially freshman year when roommates are often selected randomly by the university. Fees like this seem unfairly excessive given the circumstances.
Of course, housing payments and fees go toward providing utilities, bathroom supplies, staff and other amenities. However, it is simply not worth the thousands of dollars it costs each year. Campus living provides students with resources that enrich their college experience, but it should not be mandated by the school. Each student should have the right to decide how to make the most out of their time at college and choose where they want to live.
Catherine Van Weele is a sophomore studying political science. Follow her on Twitter @catievanweele.