Editorial: A place to call affordable

No matter how you spin it, student life is hard.

A college degree is not just a mere prerequisite for long-term employment, but it’s a special rite of passage we are all privileged to have. The moment we cross the stage, diploma in hand and graduation gown adorned, we can exclaim in unrestrained achievement, “Yes, I did it! I got through the weeks of Ramen and Cheerios; the roommate who never does his or her dishes is gone and the days haunted by a $32 checking account are over.”

For college students across the country, a dorm room is an essential component of the college experience. Schools like ASU stress its importance by urging students to live on campus their first year of college.

But, for many students, housing — on campus or off — remains a less financially viable option than they would like. The jargon concerning fall student housing prices can seem just as complicated as language used to describe mortgage interest rates on a short-sale property.

There is a need for low-cost student housing that neither the University nor the private sector is willing or able to provide. Contractors are building on prime real estate on all four ASU campuses and students deal with the brunt of costs. Students, who find themselves liberated from 18 years of parental control, are hasty to find premium campus apartments that can cost upward of $5,000 for a four-month semester (about $1,250 per month) and forget that they’re paying for their dazzling apartments with student loan debt. In spite of the high price tag, students still have irritating roommates, moldy bathrooms and bed bugs. At least with off-campus housing, students sign a 12-month lease, which can make things substantially more affordable.

ASU students and the University might be playing catch-up with ASU’s ever-reaching population growth. In a meeting with The State Press, ASU President Michael Crow said the University wasn’t able to accommodate an incoming freshmen class a few years ago, but it has been working closely with the private sector to increase low-cost off-campus living.

Yet upperclassmen that move away face an uncomfortable truth: Finding affordable housing off campus often leads them to renting in less-than-safe parts of Mesa or in rooms of houses that already occupy five other residents.

Unless students arrive at ASU with a lofty checking account, affording dorm life isn’t an option. Juniors or seniors who want to stay connected to campus life are cut off by a series of financially unfortunate circumstances.

There are students who get lucky: The ones who can afford student housing, the ones who have pleasant roommates and the ones who can maintain a healthy college life, despite living far away.

But for others, there are little resources and little avenues for students to find a helping hand. Despite the amount of energy spent on discussing financial responsibility, little emphasis is put on teaching students how to spend their housing money.

College is a privilege that requires sacrifice, a sacrifice we are more than willing to make in order to get the post-graduation payoff. While University programs try to mitigate student struggles, students don’t know where to look for affordable housing support.

A small group of lucky students can attest: Safe, clean, low-cost housing is possible to find. But then again, so is a needle in a haystack.

 

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