One day in April, I sat down and tried to come up with a list of facts that would best describe me, while simultaneously making me seem as appealing as possible. No, I wasn’t on Tinder looking for my potential soulmate, but was looking for something possibly as important: a roommate. After finally finding a roommate, there was the issue of priority numbers, and eventually, I ended up in a residence hall that I hadn’t known had existed. At least this stressful process was just a one-time thing, right? Maybe, maybe not.
Northwestern announced last October that, sophomores as well as first-years will be required to live on-campus as part of the Master Housing plan. Though this requirement will likely not come into effect until 2025, when the construction of the new residence halls is completed, for some students, this is bad news.
Being the frugal college student that I am, the cost of housing makes me, and many others, very unsupportive of the idea. Living on-campus does have its perks: classes aren’t too far away (hopefully), you get to know people in your dorm, there are guards keeping you safe (but unfortunately not in Rogers House, where I live), and basic furniture is provided. But taking into account the $8,000 - $9,200 price tag for most doubles for one year, I really question whether it is worth it. And this does not cover the meal plans, the most popular being the WildCat Weekly 14, costing $6,108 per year.
Seems expensive, doesn’t it? But wait, there's more. Another component of Northwestern’s Master Housing plan, behind the prospect of shiny, new residence buildings, is the fact that room rates will increase by about 3.5% each year. That may not sound like a big number, but say you were living in a double at Slivka, which has the most expensive doubles. At $9,177 per year, an increase of 3.5% would end up being around $321 more. For a college student who is looking to save money in any way possible, that’s a lot: almost 32 burrito bowls at Chipotle – most importantly, with guac.
I’m no math major, but I’m sure I can find myself an apartment and feed myself for less than that.
Is it really fair to force students to have to live on campus and eat through the meal plan when Evanston is full of apartments and other housing options that are much cheaper? I don’t think so. Since downtown Evanston is just a few streets away, a costly commute isn’t an issue.
The harsh reality is that many college students can’t afford it. We already pay tens of thousands of dollars for our education. But to be quite frank, spending over $15,000 solely on housing and the meal plan, when cheaper options are available, doesn’t seem realistic. There are quite a few sophomores at Northwestern who have moved off-campus, and money seems to have been a large factor in their decision.
Victoria Bianco, a Weinberg sophomore and varsity student-athlete, currently lives in an apartment three blocks west from Tech, and is very pleased with her decision to live off-campus.
“It was a big decision, but ultimately, moving off-campus makes my life easier," Bianco said. "It was a bit overwhelming to buy all the furniture and pay rent for the first time, but it’s been amazing otherwise.”
As for the cost of living off-campus, she definitely sees a difference.
“I actually save a lot of money living off-campus," she said. "I don’t spend over $6,000 during the academic year on food, and my rent for the whole year including summer is actually less than the cost of an average double for three quarters.”
College is all about preparation for real life, and in addition to not racking up a debt I’ll have to pay off for years, living off-campus would also teach me how to “adult” in life. I’d have to find a place that is within my budget, buy furniture off the “Free & For Sale” page, and learn how to cook my food and avoid spending money by eating out. One of the arguably most important thing I’d have to go through will be paying different bills – something they definitely won’t teach me at college. I wouldn’t have any more awkward coming face-to-face with guys coming out of the shower, clad only in towels, while filling my water bottle. I also wouldn’t have to hear the noise of the get-togethers going on in the rooms around me through the paper-thin walls, or the singing of my dormmate down the hall.
I agree with living on-campus being required for first years: though it’s expensive, it’s one of the best way to meet new people and make your first few friends at Northwestern. Plus, you get used to living apart from your parents, with the cushioning of having an RA to save you if something happens. But are these benefits worth $15,000 as a second-year student? I don’t think so.