By Sam Colt
The message on Kenyon’s Residence Life website is clear: “Your space. Your choice.”
But some students say deciding between apartment- and dorm-style housing is a false choice, motivated by personal economic constraints and limits on financial aid.
That could change soon.
A delegation of Student Council will meet with the Student Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees next Friday over breakfast to discuss adjusting how the College charges students for housing in a way that would equalize the cost of living in apartments and dorms, according to Student Council President Kevin Pan ’15. The proposed change would apply to seniors first, and would follow in other classes later.
“[Housing prices] have been brought up multiple times in the past,” said Conrad Jacober ’15, who sits on Campus Senate. “However, with so many new North Campus Apartments (NCAs) being built and housing on campus being pushed further and further towards more apartment housing ﾅ the issue is more pertinent.”
Jacober cited price as a main factor in his decision to live in Hanna Residence Hall this year. When he broached the issue of housing price inequality on Campus Senate, Dean of Students Hank Toutain invited him to present his case to Student Council. In doing so, Jacober has become a major proponent of eliminating the discrepancy in housing prices.
The widest housing price discrepancy this year is $4,300 per year, the difference between the cost of an apartment single and a dorm triple, according to fees listed on the College’s website. The average difference in cost between apartments and dorms on campus is roughly $1,000 per year.
Some, including Jacober, have suggested the College move to a flat-rate system that would charge all students the same amount for housing. But Toutain was quick to point out this problem does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. “There are other ways to get to a flat-rate system,” he said. “I’m not sure that there is one best way to do it. Sometimes the best approach is to figure out who you are as an institution, and that may make some strategies more appropriate.”
One way the College might seek to decrease housing price inequalities in the future is by increasing the housing stipend for students on financial aid. A flat-rate system would also result in a need to increase financial aid.
“If we go to a flat rate on the housing, the financial aid budget will need to be adjusted to increase support from the College for a subset of students,” Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Delahunty wrote in an email. “We have looked at that issue and would not want students on aid to be disadvantaged in any way.”
Adjusting financial aid to cover the price of housng for the average senior would cost the College an excess of $300,000, acording to a study conducted last year by former Associate Vice President for Finance Teri Blanchard.
As far as specific policy proposals, Student Council appears deferential to the Board.
“It’s not exactly our place to tell the College how to implement a policy change,” Jacober said, “when our role is ﾗ rather than submitting to them a formal document with a policy change ﾗ to bring to them the impetus that a change needs to happen.”
Toutain also echoed the conversational nature of Student Council’s meeting with the Board. “It’s valuable to have a conversation,” he said. “The Board is interested in the student experience.”
Regardless of the outcome of Student Council’s conversation, Pan supports the push to make housing more equitable. “I do think it’s good policy, especially with the nice housing being on campus,” he said. “Students deserve to live in them, regardless of class. I think a policy change is needed.”
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