When people find out that I’m a freshman here at UO, their immediate follow-up question is, “Oh, what dorm are you in?”
And I immediately answer, “I’m not in a dorm. I live in an apartment” without a second thought. I’ve become almost robotic in my response because of the amount of times I’ve had to answer that question.
I’m most definitely not alone in this.
As our university grows, the amount of students needing a place to stay grows as well. Unfortunately, the university has not been able to keep up the past couple of years and as we transition into a new phase of university population, we must be nothing but patient.
There are currently 4,200 beds in the University Housing system. Although a high number, it is not nearly enough to suffice the amount of people who want them. So where does that leave the freshmen who have never been own their own before? It puts them out in the real world – where they are forced to learn how to be completely independent.
This wasn’t always a problem. With the University becoming more and more of a top option for students from around the nation, the university has had a large increase in the amount of incoming freshmen.
“The biggest year change was probably three years ago,” said Food Services director Tom Driscoll, when he noticed the high admittance that was accompanied by a high need for rooms.
This leaves freshmen who applied too late for housing to literally be homeless for the next year and have to scramble to figure out how they are going to live on their own.
Driskoll says that the University has acknowledged the increase and is in the process of creating another residence hall that will add an additional 451 beds – a number that Driscoll claims will be enough to house everyone that will want to be in the halls.
However, lack of housing isn’t the only reason why freshmen are forced to live off campus.
The reason I personally chose to live off campus is to relieve my parents of that burden of a cost of living on campus.
Let’s do the math here. I pay $287 for rent, $15 for internet and around $15 for electricity a month. Factor in about $100 on groceries, and that’s about $415 a month, or about $3700 for the year…compare that to the nearly $9000 for a tiny room.
And tt’s no secret that housing here at the University not only has the smallest rooms but is also one of the most expensive. It costs nearly 9 grand to live in Bean – where the rooms are half the size of my bedroom back home. And to even get your own bathroom, you have to be willing to pay a minimum of almost 13 grand.
“It’s expensive, no question about it,” Driscoll said. “You also have to figure in the benefits and in that case, you’re not really comparing apples to apples. There are a lot of programs and people surrounding you 24/7.”
The health of the freshmen off campus.
Coming into college, the most I had ever cooked was Top Ramen. It wasn’t until the summer prior to college that, thanks to my ex-boyfriend, I learned how to make a grilled cheese sandwich.
So how was I expected to survive on my own?
I immediately thought, “Well, I’ll just go buy a meal plan and life will be swell.”
A reasonably swell plan indeed, except for the fact that the University of Oregon doesn’t really technically offer a meal plan.
They currently offer what is called “DeDuck”, which is a fancy term coined for using your student ID card as a sort of a debit card. You put a certain amount of cash on your card and you can use the money to spend on residence hall food. There’s an incentive to do this rather than simply paying with cash because with every $100 you put on your card, you get 10 bucks.
Sounds good, except the prices of the food in the residence halls are ridiculously high.
I average close to seven or eight dollars for a meal in these residence halls by getting a salad and a bottle of juice. Where’s the incentive to buy if I could just walk to a grocery store and make my own damn salad?
“We price things using the retail market,” Driscoll explained. “It’s the same price as recommended by the manufacturer.”
The price per meal is cheaper for residence hall students with a set meal plan because they made the huge commitment to living in the halls, so they deserve the deductions.
So what about those of us who would be open to buying a $2,000 meal plan?
“It’s just not convienient for people off campus,” Driscoll said. “People would open accounts and would later on ask for a refund because they end up not using the points at all.”
Until I checked out my sister’s school, Boise State University.
They offer various meal plans for students and faculty that do not reside on campus. They range from $37.50 to $380, or 5 to 45 all-you-care-to-eat meals. On top of that, you can also choose to purchase the $1400 complete meal plan offered to on-campus students.
However, these meal plans are non refundable and need to be used within a year.
Fortunately, Driskoll says that the University is working on a program that will further benefit both on and off-campus students.
We will have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m getting hungry…perhaps I should go get a $5 salad at Dux Bistro.
So are we off-campus froshies left stranded?!
To an extent. Because this is such a new and hopefully temporary problem, the University hasn’t exactly had time to make an elaborate plan to resolve the issue.
That’s where First Year Initiative, or FYI comes in. The program makes the much-needed attempt at getting these freshmen together and become more connected with the school.
“We try to reach out to students who want to be reached out to,” said FYI founder and president Kassia Galick.
FYI works with the University to offer cooking classes and other programs to bring the students together as well as producing a monthly newsletter.
Unfortunately, it’s still not enough. I, along with other off-campusers, can’t help but feel a little ostracized from campus life.
Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that can be done at this time.
Through this transitioning time period, we have to embrace the fact that the university is growing and understand that although it sucks to be excluded from the “dorm life”, there are other ways to get involved and all it takes is a little creativity and openness to do so.
Besides, I enjoy having my own bathroom. And not having my roommate sleep two feet away from me.