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Housing, the Lay of the Land

Weeklong series kicks off today


StuVi2: Boston University’s newest, most luxurious housing option. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky. Below: roll over the graphs to see the exact numbers.

A hit song by the Clash sums up a question many on-campus students face at this time of year: should I stay or should I go?

Most stay. In fact, 80 percent of undergraduates now live on campus; BU has come a long way from the days when it was considered a commuter school. That’s a population of 11,113, a small city in its own right.

What are the options? What are the opportunities? What are the pitfalls of living on campus or off campus?

This week, as decision time for next year approaches, we’re rolling out an eight-part series focused on those questions.

Today we’ll talk big picture and offer hard facts and figures, as well as perspectives from around campus about intangibles, the different personalities of popular housing options. Sure, you want to know what’s available and how much it costs. But other questions are important too: if your dorm were a personality, who would it be? Lady Gaga or Tom Cruise?

Tomorrow, students share experiences living in different dorms, from a single in Warren Towers to a double in Danielsen Hall to a triple in HoJo, otherwise known as 575 Commonwealth Ave.

Wednesday, we check out specialty houses along Bay State Road, and the theme-based options they offer. Thursday we see what life really is like inside the newest, most luxurious housing flagship, StuVi2.

Friday, we wrap up with a look to the future.

University officials would like to see undergraduate on-campus occupancy climb as close to 100 percent as possible. “If we can keep them on campus it’s better for them and better for us,” says Anne Shea, special assistant to the executive vice president.

“I’m a firm believer in living on campus as the best option for students,” agrees Marc Robillard, director of housing.

It’s both safer and more convenient, he argues, listing the library, FitRec, and BU Police Department as just a few of many on-campus benefits and perks. Besides, he adds, there’s no need to rush off campus: “You’ve got to live that way the rest of your life.”

By and large, undergrads agree, and in numbers that compare favorably to other area universities, as the accompanying bar graph shows.

The University has a financial incentive for keeping students living here as well: filling rooms helps the bottom line. Housing income accounted for between 5 and 6 percent of the University’s $2 billion budget in fiscal year 2009, or about $100 million.

Many students are tempted by the off-campus alternative, for a variety of reasons: living with friends in an apartment is seen as a rite of passage, there is more freedom, it may save money, and it’s a good way to connect to a Boston neighborhood. And those enticements appear to grow for upperclassmen.

The exodus of juniors and seniors leads to vacancies on campus; among undergraduate and graduate dorms and apartment-style rooms, Robillard says, about 300, or 3 percent, are empty this academic year. That figure includes roughly 3 percent of 800 graduate student apartments.

“We should have two times as many people interested in apartments as we have available,” says Gary Nicksa, vice president for operations. “That’s not the case.”

Housing vacancy isn’t related to class size as much as to how well the University has marketed its housing options, officials say. The most popular options right now? Brownstone apartments lining Bay State Road, and 10 Buick Street and 33 Harry Agganis Way, known as StuVi1 and StuVi2. But, Robillard adds, students should also consider the dozens of dormitory and apartment-style residences around campus.

So even when the big stay-or-go question is answered with a “stay,” the decision-making is far from over.

This week, we present some info, insight, and help with the choices.

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter @lesliefriday.

More perspectives on the ins and outs of living on campus.



6 Comments on Housing, the Lay of the Land

  • Anonymous on 03.15.2010 at 7:09 am

    Please maintain your older buildings!!! I have moved my child into rooms with dirty, torn carpet and peeling veneers from furniture. One room had a large hole in the wall. All rooms should be clean and well maintained as students are charged for any damage. Another thought would be to offer 12 month options for apartments as this may entice more students who choose to stay in Boston over the summer.

  • Anonymous on 03.15.2010 at 8:56 am

    What about South Campus? I have lived in South Campus for 2 years now and I love it!

  • Shubhalaxmi V. on 03.15.2010 at 11:43 am

    Experience of Living on Campus

    I wanted to share my experience. I am single female international Fulbright Fellow. I found living on the campus was the best option for me. Students who chose to live off campus only because they found it is cheaper there, miss out on the fringe benefits such as complete security, no travelling cost to reach the class, all amenities at a walkable distance and best of all housing problems are promptly taken care by the BU Rental Company. I enjoyed my year long stay so much that I may have problem in adjusting with my actual apartment in India.

  • Anonymous on 03.15.2010 at 12:56 pm

    The Real Numbers

    Bottom line is, as much as we’re paying, some students simply cannot afford to live on campus. The cheapest Apartment-Style option cost breaks down to $1,174 for the 9 months we’re on campus. That is total cost without a dining plan included WITH a roommate. I know many students whose parents will happily fork over that money, but I know that, as a student who works roughly 20 hours a week to cover living expenses, that is just not an option for the rest of us.

  • Anonymous on 03.15.2010 at 1:11 pm


    is shelton no longer a dorm?

  • Anonymous on 03.17.2010 at 5:21 pm

    Yeah, where is Shelton?

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