As we approach the end of the fall term at OSU, the time has come to take a closer look at the new freshman housing policy that began at the start of this academic year. While the college insists that the policy is focused on building community for incoming freshman, the fiscal advantages for the college are tremendous — and the dorm life isn’t a good fit for all students. So, who does this policy really benefit?
The OSU website doesn’t have clear access to information about the income the college raises from student housing. However, information about housing options indicates that the average cost of housing for a student (in a double cell…I mean room) is about $7,900.00*, not including the mandatory meal plan. This averages out to $877 a month for the 9 month academic year. For one twin bed in a room you share with someone else who you may not have anything in common with. Considering that about 4000 of OSU’s Undergrads live in campus housing, OSU stands to gain a minimum of 31 million dollars from housing alone this year.
The policy has some allowances: married students, students with children, students with medical exceptions, and students living in affiliated Greek houses (sororities and fraternities). Greek Houses who want to have freshman living in them, must meet certain requirements, and must have students “rush” in the summer before their freshman year. The Greek community at Oregon State has had many issues getting these exemptions, and it has impacted their rush practices. This policy also does not have exceptions for non-traditional students who are coming to OSU, such as older students who are freshman, or Veterans coming into OSU’s popular ROTC program. This means that a 25 year old Marine Veteran could easily be forced to bunk with an 18 year old. While this policy does allow students to request single rooms they are far more expensive, meaning that students who would like more privacy (for personal or religious reasons), have to shell out anywhere from $9,200.00 for an academic year to over $11,000.
As someone who lived in the dorms for two years, I will admit that the dormitory experience was an excellent opportunity to meet people, have a great time, and live with other young adults in community. However, the liver damage and debt it caused me definitely had a huge impact on my success as a student, and has had a huge financial impact. The idea of a 19-year-old paying $877 a month to share an 11’ by 15’ room with someone when they could rent an apartment for that price is completely unreasonable. Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective – not to mention proactive in teaching young people how to be fiscally responsible — for the college to invest more in student groups and activities, and allow students to live where they please? This would do a far better job at accomplishing their stated objective of providing an “excellent way for students to connect with key campus resources and build community.”
While 18- and 19-year-old kids don’t often think about much more than getting out of their parents’ houses and experiencing freedom, that’s no excuse to take advantage of their naivety. Other schools in the Oregon University System, such as University of Oregon and Portland State University, have chosen to allow students freedom from such housing requirements, and it doesn’t seem to have stopped students at those schools from being actively involved in student life and the campus community.
Considering that the Governor’s Budget for 2011-2013 granted $5,161,917,911 to the Oregon University System (to be split amongst the state universities), it seems absurd that the college needs to pull students into debt by forcing them to spend money they otherwise wouldn’t on housing that is sub-par. Why are taxpayers pouring so much money into an institution that is doing a great job of raking in the dough on its own?
Oregon State wasn’t satisfied with the fact that a vast majority of underclassmen chose to live on campus, they needed to make it mandatory, and it seems abundantly clear that the financial gain from this policy was far too tempting for President Ray to resist. We can only hope that in the future Oregon State University puts the education and success of its students over their need to fill the pockets of their administrators.