by Lucas Thayer
Those who have noticed fewer faces around campus are not alone. According to documents from the Whitworth housing office, roughly six percent of the students living on campus have either left school or left for off-campus housing since fall semester.
Currently, 1,148 students reside in dormitories, which is 80 students fewer than recorded at the beginning of fall semester. Whitworth is equipped to house 1,296 students, not including theme houses.
Alan Jacob, Whitworth’s associate director of housing, said a certain level of student departure is expected. While the number of students leaving is above average by one percent, Jacob said the rate is not unusual.
“Based on past trends, based on where we stand today, I don’t predict students leaving in droves,” Jacob said. “I could, of course, be wrong.”
Why leave Whitworth for off-campus housing? For juniors Robert Blair and Michael Diltz, cost was a large concern. The two roommates lived in a Stewart quad for fall and Jan Term before moving into an apartment at the beginning of February. Blair said he was spending roughly $9,000 for housing and a meal plan in Stewart. Now, Blair and Diltz expect to pay $4,500 a year (12 months) living off campus.
“I don’t really have much of a gripe with living on campus. It was just basically money for me,” Diltz said. “I just kind of putter around campus when I need to do stuff around here, and it’s a lot cheaper.”
For Blair, it is not just about the money.
“There’s nothing like the privacy and comfort of having your own place, and being generally autonomous and able to take care of yourself,” Blair said.
Jacob said that while living off campus may look cheaper, there are on-campus amenities that can’t be measured in dollar amounts. Grocery shopping, commuting and cost of leisure should all be taken into consideration, he said.
According to Housing Department data from the past seven years, about 48 percent of freshmen live on campus, compared to seven percent of seniors. This statistic also includes nontraditional students, such as those who are not seeking a degree, transfer students and students who did not attend college right after high school. Whitworth housing policy states that students who graduated from high school less than two years ago are required to live on campus. In some cases, the two year requirement is waived.
“We believe living on campus has such an extraordinary value to forming a person’s identity that we’re going to require it. We want to see you for those first two years after high school,” Jacob said.
The rise and fall of tuition, housing and food prices are in tandem with Whitworth’s bottom line cost of operations Jacob said. Next year, overall cost of housing is expected to rise by 4.8 percent, according to a letter from President Beck Taylor’s office last month.
Jacob could not speculate on what percentage of boarding costs went toward dormitory maintenance.
Jacob said he expects a new dorm to open in 2015, although that is not definite.
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