A mandatory live-on requirement was instituted for all incoming freshmen by the University Housing office in the fall of 2017. The University of Oregon was the last of six other institutions, including Oregon State and Lewis & Clark College, to establish a live-on requirement. Since then, the university has required freshmen to live on campus for the entirety of their first year. This mandate, while based on good intentions by the university, is impractical for many freshmen financially or otherwise.
“The live-on requirement was implemented by the University of Oregon after a group of campus partners studied data showing that first-year, full-time students at UO who lived on campus were more likely to graduate, as well as graduate faster,” said Leah Andrews, Director of Marketing and Communications for University Housing.
While living on campus may benefit first-year students academically, it can put a stress on them financially. According to the University Housing website, yearly rates for residents can cost anywhere from $9,000 to over $19,000, depending on the number of roommates, meal plan, location and whether or not the room has a bathroom. The website also anticipates prices will increase between 3–5 percent for the 2019–2020 school year.
Meanwhile, the cost of rent for an apartment off-campus is significantly cheaper. For example, the 2125 Franklin apartments can charge as low as $574 per installment per person, depending on apartment type.
Anna Scherer, a sophomore living in studio apartments managed by Von Klein Property Management, said she pays $750 each month without a lease, meaning she does not have to pay for the months during the summer when she chooses to go back to her hometown.
“My utilities are completely paid for, minus internet, which costs me about $45 a month including taxes,” Scherer said. “Dorm housing was roughly $3,300 a term, including the meal plan.”
Scherer now pays $2,250 per term for her apartment, saving her about $1,050 per term in comparison to when she lived on campus as a freshman.
The dorm environments can also be problematic for students attempting to adjust to the challenges of being a freshman. Learning to juggle college classes, finding where to eat and immersing in a new environment are exhausting enough. Add to that the challenges of sleeping in a crowded dorm with little space and no control over the comings and goings of roommates and hallmates, and it can be difficult to get adequate sleep.
This can lead to underperformance in classes for freshmen already struggling with a new style of learning. When asked about difficulty sleeping in the dorms, freshman Sarah Suh said, “It can make me not want to get up for class sometimes, so sometimes I feel rushed in the mornings and don’t really have time to check if I have everything.”
Meal plans are another part of on-campus living that can be problematic for freshmen. There are nine dining venues on campus for students to choose from. Freshmen who are more centrally located in residence halls such as LLC or Hamilton have access to the different options provided. However, for students living in Barnhart or Riley (located several blocks away from campus), the only close options for dining are Puddles Cafe and Barnhart Dining, which are both located in Barnhart.
As a result, freshmen living in those residence halls are often limited in their choices for meals. “I dislike how easy it is to get tired of the food, since it’s always the same thing,” said Maja Sobalvarro, a first-year resident of Barnhart. “When I get my own food [off-campus], I obviously can get whatever I want, so it’s preferred, but I can’t always afford it.”
Students choosing the “cost-effective” Carson Unlimited Plan are also incredibly limited in their food options, especially when attempting to eat healthily. This meal plan requires students to eat all their meals at Carson Dining, which serves buffet-style foods. According to the nutrition calculator on the University Housing website, much of the food served at Carson is highly caloric and high in saturated fat.
As a result, it can be difficult for students to make healthy eating choices. “I feel like a lot of [meal plan] options aren’t made for health — more for convenience,” said Sobalvarro.
While living on campus as a freshman may be practical for some, unhealthy meal plans and the overall financial cost may outweigh the benefits for others. Students should not be required to live on campus as freshmen and should have the freedom to choose the housing environment that works best for them.