Students weigh the cost of housing

When sophomore Jordan Deschler moved into an off-campus apartment with two roommates last spring, the three quickly discovered that one bedroom was considerably bigger than the others. So they chose the only way they thought was fair – they picked names out of a hat for the rooms.

After almost a year, and a slight rotation of roommates and rooms, Deschler still hasn’t occupied the “big room,” but she says that doesn’t matter to her. For Deschler, living off-campus isn’t about how much space she has, it’s about having her own space.

There are roughly 2,000 full-time students at Castleton State College, and according to the Director of Residence Life Dennis Proulx, only 771 live in the dorms. Proulx says he’s working to get more students on campus especially with 108 more beds for students to occupy once the three new dorms are completed.

“It’s more normal now to stay on campus for four years,” he said.

What’s right for you?

Should you live on or off campus?

It’s a question that every college student ponders at one time or another, and there are a handful of advantages and disadvantages that must be considered before making the decision.

Many see having their own apartment as freedom from the restrictions of campus life, and it’s definitely true that living off-campus gives you more freedom. Freedom and independence is important to all students, and residence halls have numerous rules that students must conform to when living in the dorms. Living off-campus allows you to be responsible for yourself and set your own rules.

Yet along with the additional freedom and independence comes additional expenses. Often paying bills creates friction and frustration among roommates. And along with rent and utilities, it’s important to factor in feeding yourself, getting yourself to school, buying furniture and clothes and cleaning supplies.

Deschler found that since moving off-campus, she spends a lot more money on gas, food and cleaning supplies.

“I ate a lot of crap on campus and here I eat crap less often. And I can cook food comfortably — I can keep actual food here,” she said. “Plus you can be on your own schedule, not the schools.”

She has also found that she spends less money on material items.

But living on campus may be easier, in terms of simplicity. There’s no worrying about whether or not rent will be paid on time, or when you’ll have the time to run to the grocery store.

And if you find yourself with a roommate you just don’t connect with while living on campus, you can just switch rooms.

Lauren Edge lived on campus her freshman and sophomore years. Last summer she found an apartment for herself – and quickly ran into the bad roommate problem.

“You can’t just switch apartments, so you need to know who you’re living with or you’re (screwed),” said Edge.

Some students learn the hard way that once you sign a lease on an apartment it’s a legal contract that you’re held to.

“A lot of students don’t understand leases,” said Proulx.

It’s important to, he said, because if you don’t know what you’re getting into you’ll have an even harder time getting out of it.

“Be sure you can afford rent [if you’re going to live off campus.] Know your roommates. Be sure your name is on the lease. Get receipts for bills and rent,” said Edge.

Don’t forget social time, grades.

Sophomore Robbie Plunkett was one of Deschler’s original roommates, who has since moved out because he felt “the time wasn’t right.”

For Plunkett, living off-campus wasn’t all he had hoped for. Campus living has an increased social life compared to off-campus life. It allows you to meet more people, thus establishing more friendships. On-campus, there is almost always someone to hang out with, students say.

“I felt like all the action happened on-campus,” Plunkett said.

And then there’s that ‘ole GPA to consider. Does living on- or off-campus affect your GPA differently?

Professor Marna Grove thinks it might, and suggests that it factors in to the whole “responsibility” aspect of living off-campus.

“I’ve known a number of students that lived off-campus. They have to be more responsible, usually hold down a job, and I see this. They take more time to communicate – they’re more capable,” she said.

Grove thinks a lot of students on campus don’t take things seriously until the end of their sophomore year.

“I think it’s the age difference,” she said. “People at the beginning of college are often still functioning on a high school level.”

With so much sudden freedom, Grove suggests some students have a bit of a “power trip” and consequently end up “blowing off a lot of stuff.”

Professor Sanjukta Ghosh voiced a similar comment. She said she notices that when there is bad weather, it’s the commuters who make it to class and the residents who don’t.

“I have to admit,” Deschler said, “living off-campus this year, my grades have improved.”

Then there is the where question.

The other big consideration if you want to live off-campus is finding a place. That’s not always easy.

Thankfully, the Residence Life office houses a binder full of off-campus housing availabilities.

Although the latest binder was recently stolen, Proulx says the theft was futile.

“Now is the time when landlords start to call the school and inform them about spaces for rent, so all that was stolen was outdated information,” he said.

Spring is here, the semester is ending and many students are considering whether or not they should move off-campus. The binder of off-campus housing will be updated and replaced and students will begin the search.

“Living off-campus might be better for one person over another,” said Plunkett.

It basically comes down to how much space you want and where you want it to be, he said.

With this thought, Deschler turns and shouts into the “big room.”

“Do you think I could have the big room to try it out?” she says.

“No!” her roommate answers, without even digesting the question.

“Not at all?” Deshler questions, suddenly caring. “I want a turn.”

“You’ve already painted your room Jordan,” he says, “really, what’s wrong with it?

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