Housing contracts misunderstood, should on-campus housing be required for all?

Lauren Fredericks January 31, 2013 0

Did you know that as Elizabethtown College students, you signed a contract your first year saying you would live on campus for all four years you attended the College? Most students probably didn’t know this and may feel like sophomore Brittany Stepp, who said, “I don’t feel as though it was clear during my tour of the College, or during orientation that I would absolutely have to live on campus all four years.” Some of you may be thinking, “Well, I know a lot of seniors and juniors who live off campus,” and that is true. Residence Life grants students special permission to get out of their agreement and live off campus, but the policy is strict and not many students get permission. Is it fair that Residence Life gets to tell students that we cannot live off campus and make a home for ourselves outside of the campus?
Residence Life has been following the same housing policy for years, and though there have been personal problems brought to their attention, we need to realize no system is perfect. According to assistant director of Residence Life Susan Asbury, Etown is a residential college, so we signed an agreement to be a resident for four years. Asbury also said, on behalf of the school and residence life, that this “agreement, in turn, is the College’s promise to you that we will provide you with eight semesters of college housing.” This means that Etown promises to make sure you have a place to stay on campus if you need one for the next four years, but what about the students who do not need the place on campus all four years and want to move off?
Most students move or want to move off campus their junior and or senior year for various reasons. Stepp pointed out that students may want to live off campus to start building credit, the chance to get their own rooms and save money. On top of that, other reasons may be that students want to have more freedom and make a name for themselves outside the College. By keeping students bound to these “agreements,” Etown may not be allowing students to live their lives the way they want to while at school, and it also may be hurting them in the long run. This agreement that we signed does not feel like an agreement, instead it feels more like a contract, because we are being forced into it and do not have any other choice. “At the top of the form, it says “Housing Agreement” not “Housing Contract,”” Stepp stated. So for those students who want to move off campus, what must they do?
“In the early fall of each year the College’s Enrollment Committee provides our office with the number of off-campus releases that we may offer to students wishing to be released from their residency agreement,” Asbury said. The school controls the number of students they are willing to release from campus. What decides this number is unknown; is it about money, room or maybe standards? Whatever the number is, that is what Residence Life has to deal with; there is a process that students must go through to apply to live off campus, and credentials that they have to meet. One thing that boggles my mind is that during an interview with Asbury, she mentioned that they try to “release less than 40 or 50 students” each year. This number can vary from year to year, though. This does not even give the entire senior class an opportunity to move off campus, if that is their desire. However, seniors do get priority at being one of the forty to fifty students, and then some juniors might get the chance. The only problem is that most juniors will not get the opportunity because the limited amount of spots fill up quickly.
I think Residence Life is doing something great by making sure all students are guaranteed four years of housing if they need it; however, I do not believe that those four years should be forced. I think that first-year and sophomore students should live on campus to help adjust to being on their own, focusing in class and just being in the college environment. By junior year, though, I believe that if you have a desire to move off campus and start your life outside the campus, then you should be allowed. Not only could it cost less, Brittany Stepp informed me that she could save around 5,000 dollars by living off campus, it can help build credit, allow for more freedom, and living there whenever they need to, unlike when the school is closed and students cannot stay. Many students may not have carefully read or understood what they were signing, or they may have felt obligated to sign it because that was the only way to get an education at Elizabethtown College.
The contract needs to be either clearer or altered to help the students here at Etown. Residence Life is trying to keep their students safe and to accommodate them the best they can, though maybe too much. I believe, as adults, students should be able to decide where they live while attending college, and to make their own decisions that will help prepare and shape them in their life.

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