Opinion: Make on-campus housing optional for second years
Updated: Nov 3, 2021
First-year and second-year students at Willamette must live on campus in all but a few situations. Willamette’s housing website explains that “Students are required to live in university housing for four semesters, unless they are married, in a civil union or domestic partnership; over 21 prior to the beginning of the academic year; caring for a dependent child or parent; or living a parent/legal guardian within a commutable distance of 25 miles or less from campus. Students with four semesters in residence are eligible to live off campus.” Willamette is not alone in having these requirements for students, as other schools of similar size have similar requirements. However, considering the financial implications of paying for on-campus housing versus off-campus housing, and the fact that plenty of other institutions do not have this two year housing requirement, Willamette should change its policy to a one year on-campus housing requirement. Living on campus during COVID-19 increases the risk of an outbreak amongst students and if this was an option, not requirement, for second year students the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus would be much smaller.
Financially speaking, it does not make sense for students to pay for campus housing when off-campus is cheaper. The average rent for a two bedroom apartment in Salem is $990 (a 2.22 percent decrease from last year) per month. Housing for one semester for a standard double occupancy room at Willamette is $3,500. The fall 2020 semester is three months long. The rent for one person sharing the rent and occupancy of a two bedroom apartment in Salem would be $495 a month and $1,485 for three months. This is less than half and roughly $2,000 cheaper than living in the on-campus housing for a semester. Likewise, the cost for the total year is $2,970 for the apartment versus $7,000 for on-campus housing; a major benefit. While other small, private, liberal arts institutions such as Whitman College have a similar requirement to Willamette with housing for first and second-year students, larger universities such as the University of Washington only require on-campus housing for first-year students. Both Whitman and Willamette have small school environments which cultivate social interaction between a myriad of students. The two year housing requirement at these schools helps students to continue to foster relationships with their peers. However, Willamette students would not be significantly socially hindered by not living in close proximity to all their peers for two years.
Even if living off campus does not offer the same social benefits, living off campus should be a choice for second-year students. Students who believe that they would be missing out on socialization by living off campus their second year can live on campus for those benefits if they so choose. Willamette’s small environment and the proximity of residential areas to the campus enables students to socialize with their friends and new people easily even if they are off campus.
Many students agree with this sentiment regarding housing as well. Aidan Tubbaji ‘24 said that the financial benefits of living off campus as a sophomore student outweigh the proximity to class living on campus since “Willamette is near many residential options that are less of a financial burden.” Luke Seymour ‘24 agreed, saying how “students dealing with financial stress are provided some relief if they can attend school, but pay less for housing because they are living off campus."
Ultimately, Willamette’s strong community between students has led to an environment where students do not have to worry heavily about socialization even if they live off campus simply because it is so easy to meet people at Willamette. While COVID-19 has made socializing more difficult, students would be safer living off-campus if they had the choice to do so as second year students. Additionally, the financial benefits of off-campus housing make clear that it should be accessible to second-year students so that they do not have to worry about financial qualms if housing on campus is too expensive. Regardless of an individual’s situation, the option to save more money for housing benefits every student—housing on or off campus should be a choice for all second year students.