Students weigh cost of living on-campus

Story and photos by SCOTT WISEMAN

When students consider housing options, their choices are impacted by variables such as location, amenities, activities and opportunities to increase social circles. Above all, students face the challenge of balancing cost with all of the other options.

Students sit and relax inside the lobby of the Heritage Center.

Current plans for the 2011-2012 academic year expect to see yet another increase in cost for on-campus-housing. The cost for a standard double room will increase $162 per academic year, while the premium four bedroom apartments will increase $23 per month, according to the Housing and Residential Education website.

While Housing and Residential Education is receiving less student housing contract cancellations than the previous year, student applications to live on-campus for the upcoming academic year are increasing, said Scott Jensen, assistant director of Housing and Residential Education.

Even though costs of living on-campus are scheduled to increase, construction for a new student housing building is starting near the Annex building. Tentatively scheduled to open in 2012, this building will contain more than 320 rooms designated for the living-learning program hosted by the Honors College, Jensen said.

Living on-campus may be more expensive, but the benefits that come with it outweigh the monetary costs, Jensen said. Some of the benefits included with living on-campus are easy access to a campus shuttle, prepared meals for students, a convenient location and the security of resident assistants and campus security.

First year students make up 56 percent of all of the students living on-campus, while 19 percent of the entire freshman class resides on-campus, Jensen said.

“The college experience is much more than just reading books,” Jensen said. “Living on-campus offers a unique sense of community— it offers access to all that the university has to offer.”

In reaction to the high price of living on the University of Utah campus, some students have chosen to leave the campus in search of cheaper rent.

“I felt as if living in the dormitories was far too expensive,” said Steven Gonsalves, a former resident of Gateway Heights and a sophomore attending the University of Utah. “I was able to find a room at my fraternity house for only a fraction of the cost of living on-campus.”

While Gonsalves said he did not need many of the additional services provided by living on-campus, he did recommend first year students live on-campus.

“I believe that a first-year student would benefit greatly from the services such as the campus shuttle, mailroom and the prepared food at the Heritage Center,” Gonsalves said. “As a sophomore, I was searching for different aspects of college life, so it was not worth the price for me.”

Jensen said the most frequent reason for student cancellation of housing contracts is financial issues. Students also often cancel contracts due to the required meal plan associated with living on-campus.

When a student determines whether or not they want to live on-campus, the financial commitment is a large factor in the decision, said Jensen.

By living on-campus, students have the opportunity to become part of a community of friends who are living in the same location.

“Freshmen should definitely live their first year on-campus,” said Shawn Pfeuffer, a sophomore currently living in Sage Point. “I lived my first year off-campus and I felt really disconnected from the university. Also, there are plenty of easily accessible resources on-campus to help you with your schoolwork if you live on-campus.”

Students who live on-campus are more likely to achieve more academic success. Students living on-campus see a higher grade point average, as well as a higher return rate to the university than those living off-campus, Jensen said.

Financial aid and scholarships have also been made available to students living on-campus that are determined to fall under the category of need-based aid. Some of the on-campus housing scholarships offered include the Larry H. Miller, athletic and several offered through the honors college.

As far as students paying a higher rate to live in the on-campus community, there are people who feel that the extra benefits received from living on-campus outweigh the price.

“If someone is from out of state and has no previous connections to anyone here, it is definitely worth the extra cost of living,” Pfeuffer said. “You can meet great people every day. It’s a very social environment with many opportunities to make friends.”