Two weeks ago, The Record published the article “Upperclassmen housing options falling short.” I was eager to hear more perspectives on the issue, but ended up disappointed in Residence Life’s justification for the policy. Starting next year, upperclassmen will no longer be allowed to live off campus, supposedly to increase campus connectedness, retention rates, and students’ well-being. While I support these goals, I don’t think they’re a sufficient basis for the change, and I suspect the decision was ultimately financially motivated.Let’s do some quick math. (Don’t worry, I’ve already done it.) A campus apartment costs $7,050 per person for eight months, so three people pay a total of $2,644 per month in rent and utilities. In comparison, a high-end three-bedroom apartment in Goshen would cost about $2,000 per month in rent, with an additional $100-$200 in utilities.
Residential students must also purchase a meal plan. The smallest plan costs $1,050 and includes 65 meals and $140 in Munch Money. That’s $14 per meal, assuming you can use all 65 of them. Given the issues with quality, variety and availability of campus meals, it is difficult to believe that all of that money actually goes to food service.
That is not to say that the cost of living at GC is too high. Keep in mind that students have free access to many traditionally paid resources, such as free counseling, research databases from the library and the Rec-Fitness Center, to name a few. The college is also grappling with the financial strain of the pandemic and severe inflation while making an effort to keep tuition as low as possible.
The issue is, simply put, we don’t know where the money goes. The Annual Report breaks yearly spending into broad categories, but that’s as specific as it gets. Our administration makes a lot of complex policy decisions, and it would be unreasonable to expect all of them to be popular, but it’s difficult to support or accept those decisions without context.
This housing policy serves as an excellent example. The original decision was made three years ago, meaning that next year’s juniors will be the first affected, but we still haven’t heard all of the reasons behind it— only the pieces that sound palatable. With only the given reasons to go off of, the policy feels like an unfair cash grab. However, I’ve heard a few thirdhand accounts of the financial factors potentially involved in this decision. If any of them turned out to be true, they would drastically recontexualize the situation and make the policy change much easier to understand.
I’m not advocating for a change in this policy. I’m not asking that students be allowed to make these intricate decisions, or that they be made to cater to our whims. I believe that our administrators care deeply about us and serve us as best they can, and I can’t imagine what it feels like to make such fraught decisions knowing that whatever choice you make will be condemned.
All I would ask is that, when they make those difficult choices, administrators be open and honest about their reasoning. Don’t hide things from us because you think we won’t understand or care.
Don’t ask us to blindly accept decisions that seem arbitrary. I’m sure there are students who will criticize your choices no matter what, and I realize transparency requires trust. But we trust you with our education, our safety, and our money, and we would like your trust in return.