OPINION: USF needs to prioritize affordable, accessible housing to help reach sustainability goals

Commuters play a major role in the university’s carbon footprint, but increasing prices and unreliable transportation leave them with no other option. ORACLE PHOTO

Students for Socialism (SFS) held a rally on Monday to express their concerns over rising housing costs and its impact on the environment, according to a Sept. 18 article by The Oracle. 

Nearly half of USF’s carbon footprint is caused by the almost 40,000 students and faculty members that commute to and from campus on a regular basis, according to the Student Green Energy Fund

USF set the goal to be carbon neutral by 2070 in its 2010 Climate Action Plan. To achieve this goal, changes need to be made immediately to help students avoid commuting. 

If the university is serious about trying to lower its carbon footprint, USF officials need to prioritize funding for more student housing and lower dorm prices. 

Many students who moved into on-campus housing over the past month faced uncertainty as to whether or not they would even have a room to stay in, according to an Aug. 21 article from The Oracle. 

Some students were placed on a standby list for housing as early as March, and some were not assigned to a room until as recently as Aug. 16, less than a week before the beginning of the semester.

By allocating more funding to building another residence hall, the university could make the process of finding housing on campus more appealing and less stressful for students.

The stress caused by the lack of availability of student housing has already driven away students hoping to live there.

“I kept trying [to get on-campus housing], but nothing opened up. I had to use off-campus housing without a car, which was [very] damaging financially and for my mental/physical health,” said behavioral healthcare sophomore Rana Ali in the Aug. 21 article.

Dorm housing rates increased by 4.5% this fall, and will continue to do so annually for the next five years, according to a Feb. 14 proposal by the USF Board of Trustees. 

The new dorms on the Sarasota-Manatee campus will be the most expensive across all USF campuses, with prices ranging from $1,297 to $1,648 per month.

Business management major Riley Crosby said that the rising dorm prices are unreasonable, and they are keeping him from being able to live on campus. 

“[Castor] is really the only [dorm] I can afford. So with my job, I’d have to get this one. But I’m not living on campus next year because of rising rates, so I wouldn’t be able to afford it,” he said in an April 20 article from The Oracle.

Many of these students would like to live closer to campus, but the cost and lack of availability leave them with no other option but to live farther away and commute.

While these improvements would be costly, they are necessary. Commuters are major contributors to USF’s carbon footprint, but the responsibility of making sustainable changes does not all fall on them. 

The university has put millions of dollars toward expensive, showy projects like the new football stadium and Honors College building. It is time it puts more focus on on-campus housing to help their students thrive and to make USF as sustainable as possible.