Housing, the Lay of the Land
Weeklong series kicks off today
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.
More perspectives on the ins and outs of living on campus.