On-campus housing must remain choice at USF

To live on campus, or to live off campus: That is the question, whether ’tis smarter in the mind to choose the close proximity and convenience of on-campus life or to take the reduced price of nearby, non-USF housing.

My parallel to Shakespeare’s Hamlet may be corny at best, but freshmen and Hamlet alike may be faced with a similar choice. Starting in 2009, most incoming freshmen might be unjustly forced to live on campus.

USF is planning a new proposition that would require incoming freshmen from outside the Tampa area to live on campus, according to Wednesday’s Oracle. Unless the incoming freshman is from Hillsborough, Pasco or Pinellas county, he or she would be required to live on campus – except for students in the military or other exceptions. This rule wouldn’t go into effect until the new Magnolia Hall opens in 2009.

The plan is expected to boost on-campus population, grade point averages, student involvement, retention rates and USF’s reputation on the national level. It is hoped that this increase would merit an invitation to the Association of American Universities and status as a Carnegie Institute “Primarily Residential” university. While these things sound great and would seemingly make USF more attractive to high school graduates from all over the country, the administrators forgot one thing: It’s more expensive to live on campus than it is to live off campus. USF should not force freshmen to live on campus unless they lower the rent.

Currently, the cheapest housing on campus is Beta, Castor, Delta, Epsilon, Eta, Kappa and Zeta Hall – all at $442 a month for a double suite. These rooms house two people in each room with up to eight people in a suite, sharing two toilets, two sinks and a shower. There is also a kitchen shared by the entire floor. For the same rate or lower, a student can live off campus and have his or her own bedroom, a shower and bathroom to share with one person, and a kitchen to share with three other people. For example, to live at The Pointe, a student-geared apartment complex, it only costs $349 a month for a four-person apartment.

I am not claiming that living on campus doesn’t have its benefits, however. When a student lives on campus, it gives him easier access to on-campus events, study groups and classes. One of the biggest perks of living on campus is that students don’t have to deal with parking every morning. For early morning classes, it is perfectly acceptable to roll out of bed and go to class – pajamas and all. This would be harder to do if a person lived off campus.

Yet the University has no right to force students to live somewhere. Students should be allowed to choose where they want to live instead of being forced to dwell somewhere because they’re freshmen or it’s their first year at the University. It’s not fair, and it’s discriminatory. If every freshman were forced to live on campus, it would take up the rooms for those who actually want to live on campus. There are juniors and seniors who live on campus because they want to. If every freshman lived on campus, upperclassmen could be unable to get rooms.

Not everyone can afford to live on campus. Usually, a student can find similar or better living arrangements (own room, own kitchen, etc.) off campus for a cheaper price. It’s not fair to force freshmen to spend money they don’t have. Tuition, books and fees are already expensive. Add a mandated fee of at least $3,536 for the year and USF could be pushing some students over the edge – and away from the school.

Although indicators may show that students who live on campus fare better academically than those who are off campus, it doesn’t mean the University has a right to force freshmen to live on campus just to bolster their rates. College is supposed to be a time of transitioning and a time of freedom. This situation is an example of neither.

Amy Mariani is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.