As the school year comes to a close, students are making plans to move out of campus housing. Some plan on returning in the fall, while others are choosing to commute from their family homes or off-campus apartments. As students weigh these choices, we believe the University of St. Thomas housing options do not warrant the amount of money students are required to pay.
The first floor of the Guinan Residence Hall, for example, was stripped and remodeled due to mildew concerns in the summer of 2018, issues that still extend to the second and third floors of the building. The remaining floors are scheduled to be remodeled one summer at a time. However, until the mildew is removed completely, students are still living in health-hazardous conditions.
The cost of living in Guinan with a standard room and meal plan is $4,650 per semester, which is about $1,162 per month. Living in Guinan Hall comes with 24- hour monitoring and almost- unlimited access to rooms by the Residence Life team. During health and safety checks, some Resident Assistants will simply glance at the room, while others will inspect more thoroughly such as looking through refrigerators in the absence of the residents. The cost of apartments in the Montrose area, meanwhile, range from $800 a month to $1,200+ for rent and utilities. This is more expensive than living on campus, but allows for privacy, independence and any guests without restrictions. It is no surprise that most students move out after their first year on campus.
As if sub-par living conditions weren’t enough, residents of Guinan are required to purchase an “all-flex” meal plan that costs $1,795 per semester. Guinan residents have no choice but to spend almost $2,000 on meals and snacks from the Crooker cafeteria and store during the three-plus months of each semester. That’s simply too much money for most students to spend on food, especially in a cafeteria with such a limited food selection of mostly unhealthful choices. The Crooker Kitchen has also had a plethora of health violations, calling the quality and safety of those choices into question. Moreover, many students like to go out and enjoy the food around the city, but students stuck with a bloated meal plan account are either too pinched or feel too guilty to pay for additional, off-campus meals. Unspent money in student meal plans accounts, however, don’t carry over to the next semester; that money now belongs to the University. Therefore, students who fail to spend down their flex-plan accounts not only lose their own money, but they have no idea where it goes. We at the Independent believe students should at least be informed how their leftover funds are allocated or have a say in where those funds go.
In Young Hall, meanwhile, students have the option to select an “all-flex” meal plan for $1,795 or an apartment meal plan for $625–a far more manageable option that should be available to all on-campus students. In Young, a one bedroom apartment costs $3,485 dollars per semester. Two-or three-bedroom apartments come in both “standard” and “superior” options, and can range from $3,075 to $3,280. Nonetheless, we have seen recurring leaks and RAs must place sandbags and water-absorbent pads at students’ apartment doors, because the courtyard floods after every rainstorm. Young Hall’s structure is simply too old.
UST students pay to live on campus for the convenience alone. Although there are housing options other than Young and Guinan (Townhomes and Clare Hall) these are the most popular and none are ideal. Ultimately, UST students deserve a better living environment to come home to after a busy day of classes, work, and socializing. It’s no wonder UST is a commuter school and if these issues are not addressed it will remain that way. Rather than building new housing we urge the University to fix what we have now.