More affordable, no-frills student housing needed

By Editorial Board

When many people think of college dormitories, they picture buildings full of small, symmetrical, cramped rooms for two, with beds lofted to make more space and closets overspilling with clothes and books. In newer college housing, more apartment-style rooms are becoming popular, usually designed for four students with a bathroom and shared living space.

At Columbia, though, student spaces are cutting edge. The majority of housing options include full kitchens with dishwashers, cable television and building amenities like gyms, music practice studios, pools and small movie screening rooms. The Dwight, 642 S. Clark St., goes even further with flat screen televisions and granite countertops, luxuries some students have never lived with before.

Columbia’s dorms are certainly attractive to prospective students, but the price tag is a heavy one. Only one building offers rooms for under $10,000 per academic year, and that is without the cost of a meal plan. In comparison, other local campuses offer extensive options for $7,000–$8,000. Of course Columbia has to keep up with realty costs in the South Loop, but the cost of living on campus is a tough sell for many families.

The majority of Columbia’s students live off campus where the average cost to rent is significantly lower. This financially accessible alternative is something Columbia should consider more closely. For example,  New York University has an extensive rental listing website devoted to students looking for off-campus housing and roommates, with all the information novice renters could need. Considering most Columbia students move off campus after their freshman or sophomore year, a similar program that goes beyond just a forum would do students a great service.

For new students who aren’t acquainted with the city, Columbia should do more to provide housing options that realistically reflect an average rental experience in Chicago.  Although practice studios and multimedia rooms are great creative spaces, students have said they rarely see these facilities used. Columbia should consider acquiring buildings with fewer frills. If realty prices prevent these buildings from being in the South Loop, so be it, as long as development doesn’t interrupt the life of the community.

We faintly remember the slogan “The City is our Campus” echoing from years past. Columbia could be doing more to encourage its own motto.