By Aidan Regan
Is the cost of living the required two years on campus too expensive? According to Dean of Students, Mike Segawa, the price tag covers much more than rent.
Puget Sound’s mission statement puts its “predominantly residential” status front and center. However, Loggers often cite the cost of living as a point of dissatisfaction with the two year residential requirement for new students. According to the Puget Sound residential life website, living on campus with a medium meal plan in a standard double, triple or quad room costs $5,900 per semester.
Living on campus includes utilities and furniture such as beds, desks and wardrobes. A full list of all furniture provided in different housing locations can be found on the Puget Sound residential life website. According to Segawa, it also includes assurance of a health and safety presence through Residence Life that isn’t available off campus.
“We’re really good with our relationship with our residents,” Dean Segawa said about Residence Life. “It’s hard for a student to fall through the cracks.”
He added that off-campus landlords may not be as receptive students’ concerns.
When asked about the “campus bubble,” Dean Segawa said that students off campus don’t branch out into the Tacoma community more than those on campus. “Living off campus doesn’t put them closer to downtown,” he said. “Almost all our off-campus students live within a half-mile radius to this place.”
He also noted that Residence Life is attempting to infuse education into the residential environment. The University hopes to create what he called a “residential curriculum.” This is reflected in the higher GPA and retention rate of students living on campus.
There’s also a large convenience factor. “Location, location, location,” Dean Segawa said. “When [students] live off campus and they go home, they tend not to physically come back to campus. Coming into faculty members’ office hours, not so much. Coming in for programs, not as much. The proximity makes it easier for a student to stay engaged.”
Many students share Dean Segawa’s appreciation for that proximity and engagement.
“I think [the two-year requirement] allows people to be more involved,” Resident Programming Advisor for Smith and Oppenheimer Residential Halls, Max Coleman said. “[It] can help ensure that there’s a system of support for students who didn’t necessarily find their niche their first year.”
Resident Assistant for Schiff Hall Hannah Zeigerson agreed, but with some reservation.
“The community that first years can get within their residence halls is incredibly valuable, I just don’t see that happening as much in the upper class halls,” she said. “It’s also really important to learn about rent and housing in the real world,” she added.
Many students do choose to live off campus, usually after they have completed the two-year requirement.
“[Living off campus] has allowed me to have a space that feels more comfortable but also gives me the opportunity to save money and learn good money saving habits because, even with playing for rent, utilities and food, it is less expensive,” junior Caroline Harris said. “Living off campus has been great for both my mental health and my wallet.”
Dean Segawa pointed out that campus house and suite-style living available to sophomores helps to bridge the gap between living on campus and renting a house. It factors into the transition period first years and sophomores face as they gain independence.
“If people had to live in dorms both years, they’d be less encouraged to come here,” sophomore Chloe Grossman said. “Having a [campus] house…gives you more of a sense of having a home at Puget Sound.”
Students can appeal to live off campus before their two-year requirement is up. According to the Puget Sound Residential life website, students can appeal on the basis of financial hardship, medical needs, or “other extenuating circumstances.” The website states that “a financial hardship is not simply a justification that living expenses could be lessened by off campus housing arrangements. Financial Hardship appeals require that a completed FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) be on file with Student Financial Services.” Exceptions are also made for students with children, dependents of Puget Sound faculty and staff, married students or students over the age of 23.
The point Dean Segawa emphasized above all was that the residential requirement contributes to something greater than the living situation of any one student: a vibrant campus culture.
“Here, when 1,600 of out 2,100 students live on campus at any given time, that creates culture. When all of you are eating together in Wheelock that creates culture,” Dean Segawa said. “It’s a minority of colleges and universities that are predominantly residential. What’s different [at Puget Sound] is that sense of campus culture and sense of community.”