Editorial: Changing off-campus housing policy a great decision for students

Editorial Board

It’s no secret that housing at urban colleges is expensive. Around the country, urban campuses everywhere struggle to provide decent housing for their students, especially those that wish to escape the confines of first-and second-year dorm living.

At Case Western Reserve University, this issue has been especially prevalent. It is relatively well-known around campus that need-based grants basically limit students to on-campus housing. Many students have emailed the Office of Financial Aid to ask how much they would lose living off campus only to find out that they would lose most, if not all, of their grant money.

But times appear to be changing.

Seemingly out of nowhere, President Barbara Snyder sent an email to the entire undergraduate student body detailing that housing grant allocation had been changed. Rather than reserving housing appropriations for upperclassmen who chose to live in campus-run living spaces, they would allow students to retain a much larger portion of their grants if they chose to move off campus.

It’s quite simply one of the best policy changes CWRU has made in recent memory. It extends much more freedom of movement to upperclassmen, which will transform their experience as CWRU students.

Now, this is not meant to imply that upperclassmen housing options such as The Village at 115 or Stephanie Tubbs Jones Residence Hall (STJ) aren’t nice or well-developed. These are fantastic places to live, with an apartment-style setup that could be enjoyed by those that need to remain on campus. Their addition to campus was definitely a first step in the right direction.

However, it can still feel rather confining when the money enabling you to attend CWRU is contingent upon your occupancy of on-campus residences. Especially in the case of the Village and STJ, having resident assistants, even if you don’t run into them often, can still make it feel less “adult.” Other accommodations can be expensive, such as car storage, which will necessitate the purchase of a campus permit.

There also is something rather liberating about being able to extend the periphery of campus, into the areas like Cedar-Fairmount, Little Italy and Coventry. All of them are fun pockets of Cleveland, with entertainment and attractions that go beyond the usual reaches of Uptown and Wade Oval. And while this is less of a practical consideration, it is always fun to have a memorable urban apartment to reflect upon later in life.

These experiences were out of reach for many on campus. We’ve talked often about the diversity on this campus, and socioeconomic diversity is certainly more prevalent than we may appreciate. When discussing these changes, there were many on the editorial staff who have grants tied to their housing. For all of us, the lottery for upperclassmen housing was a stressful mess as our housing options were both limited and nonguaranteed.

Now, we can weigh more options for living, both in terms of spaces and people we can live with. It was always unfortunate when groups had to be divided along the lines of housing grants versus no housing grants, but now this is no longer as much of an issue.

If there is one problem with this announcement, it can be found in the timing. While it was a welcome surprise, many students are already locked into their housing groups for the on-campus pool. Additionally, off-campus housing options are likely more limited at this point in the semester. Leases are not easy to come by on short notice, but this shouldn’t be a debilitating issue.

Regardless, CWRU has made a decision that poses an overwhelming benefit to its students. Upperclassmen experiences will no longer be a cut and dry “can you afford to go off your grants” and will allow undergraduates to expand their housing horizons.

Living on this campus goes beyond the North and South Residential Villages, so it’s about time every student was able to experience all it has to offer.