Sean Keohane / Equinox Staff

As students, sometimes decisions are made for us. We have to fulfill unnecessary course requirements that do not further our major or career goals, we don’t get to choose what food is served in the dining commons and, now, Keene State could possibly take away our choice to live on or off campus as juniors.

Keene State College has recently been working with Huron consulting group with the goal of identifying six million plus dollars in savings for the college. With this goal, Huron presented 25+ opportunities in April for Keene State to save money, according to the Huron Engagement Overview updated on July 31, 2020. From the opportunities Huron presented to the Cabinet and Strategic Advisory Team (SAT), seven opportunities were selected for business cases, and one of them is none other than “Housing: Junior On-Campus Option” which could approximately bring in as low as $1,467,000 and as high as $5,121,000 in revenue.

In this report it says, “The number of students living on campus has decreased by 23 percent since 2015, and only a minority of upperclass students live on-campus; instituting a junior on-campus requirement can allow Keene to begin filling vacancies.” In addition, the report also says that there are 361 vacant beds on-campus along with auxiliary revenue (housing and dining) decreasing by $6 million. .

To go along with this, on the Keene State College Residential Life website, under “Why Live on Campus?,” it says “Many students are happier being closer to everything, and research shows that students who live on campus do better academically and have a greater chance of graduating.”

First of all, I must concede that it is easier to access academic support, the library, tutors, etc. However, juniors have already been on campus for two years, which is plenty of time to learn who and what their resources are and how to access them. Also moving off-campus is a big deal and students should really make sure that they are truly ready before making that decision. I also will say living on campus does make it easier to commute to classes, but it’s really not much of a difference, if at all.

It takes me about seven minutes to get to campus from my off-campus house, whereas last year it would take only a minute or two less from my Pondside 1 dorm. In addition, if someone is living further away than that from campus, they most likely have a car or know someone with a car that can reduce commute time. Similarly, if people live far from campus they likely chose that apartment for a reason and it shouldn’t impact the whole junior class.

While I think these previous examples along with other reasons they provide are somewhat reasonable, I have a big issue with the statement that it is cheaper to live on campus than off campus. Also on the Keene State Website under “8 Reasons To Live On Campus This Fall,” the article says “There is a common misconception that living on campus costs more than living off campus. Consider this: When you live on campus, you save money on internet, gas and utility bills. You also can save money on furnishing an apartment. You can end up spending a lot less than you can if you live in an off-campus apartment.”

This statement upset me immensely and led me to write this article. It is just flat out not true. According to the Keene State website, without even taking tuition into account, room costs $8,406 on average, board (meal plan/other factors) costs $4,118 and mandatory fees (cleaning) cost $2,884, which all add up to $15,408. Just to put this number into perspective, my off-campus housing with everything but Wi-Fi included for the whole year costs $8,078.40. This is an approximate $7,329.60 difference. The opposite of what residential life is claiming.

I understand that this comparison in and of itself is unfair to the school so I’m going to break it down. First of all, I am not accounting for wi-fi, which costs $55 per month between my two roommates and myself in my unit. If I were to divide this into three (roommates) and then multiply it by 12 (months), the cost would be $220 for the year. If I subtract that from the difference that I just stated, then that still leaves over $7,000.

To add onto this, in most off-campus housing I’ve come across, internet, cable and power are typically all you have to pay for (and that’s without saying that power is even fully taken care of in some). In addition, I spend about $60 or $70 on food every two to three weeks, and even if that does add up to more than the on-campus total, I am still getting the food that I want and that’s MY decision to make. Also when it comes to furnishing, many students rely on thrift shops, parents or buying from fellow students, which brings the price down substantially.

Additionally, I think it would create an imbalance in the dynamic of living in dorms. I can say for certain that I would want to live in Pondside 1, Pondside 3 or Butler Court if I had been forced to stay on campus and I am willing to bet that those would be many other peoples’ first choices as well. The desire for these three dorms would cause more unhappiness in the on campus experience for many students if they couldn’t live there. Also, Pondside 2 and the Owls Nests are some of the furthest locations from academic buildings while still being on campus, which goes against the school’s logic of being close to everything due to there being a lot of off-campus housing that is literally closer to everything than Pondside 2.

I also believe that this would be an incredibly odd, difficult time to be looking to implement this rule given COVID-19. If students want the chance to live with their friends and have a tighter social bubble to keep themselves safe, what’s wrong with that? Or, if they want to live off campus because they don’t want to be forced to go back home if campus was to shut down again, why are we stopping students from making a decision that could potentially be helpful for their mental health?

As somebody currently living off campus, I think this change would be absolutely ridiculous. Having the opportunity to live with some of the people closest to you is an incredibly valuable experience that I think should remain available. I understand that the school thinks that some people may not be ready to live off campus as juniors, but those students shouldn’t be the reason why a whole class isn’t allowed to get a different Keene State experience.

At the end of the day, I think that Residential Life’s statements don’t reflect the truth of on versus off-campus housing and I think that it’s just ethically wrong. These statements could make people think that they are doing the smart thing of staying on campus when living off campus may be the smarter financial option. I understand that the school needs to get themselves financially well, but this just seems like a desperation move to myself and other students and there are many other ways that Huron gave that aren’t this.

As of right now this is currently only an option that the school hasn’t acted on and I truly hope it stays that way. If Keene State wants more students to live on campus then they should give us more reasons to. In addition, if the school needs to fill vacancies then they should find ways that wouldn’t upset the students already going here.

 

Cristian Valentin can be contacted at:

cvalentin@kscequinox.com