December 16, 2022 | OPINION | By Cormac McCrimmon

On Monday, the Colorado College Student Government Association (CCSGA) sent an email to the entire student body.[1] The authors paint a picture of crisis. They describe a problem of dire urgency and enormous magnitude. The situation? The Colorado College Housing office has limited the number of seniors who can live on campus next year to 75. Fortunately, upon a more detailed review, it’s easy to tell that this outrage against the Housing office is unworthy of your anger. What’s more concerning, however, is the list of misguided, entitled and hypocritical demands CCSGA raises.

Housing is an issue which the school should address. Forced triples are a nasty surprise that no first year should have to deal with, and increasing enrollments combined with decreasing housing inventory have created a very real challenge. Yet the best solution to the “housing crisis” is to expand off-campus housing.

Students benefit from the community a residential experience creates, but for 3rd or 4th years, living off campus offers an excellent opportunity to take on more responsibility, expand one’s worldview and gain a new perspective on CC. Not to mention, it’s often far cheaper than living on campus. Rather than building new luxury dorms, CC can help its students break free of the campus bubble and discover the joy of independence by expanding off-campus housing. Indeed, this is what many students have asked for. Besides exceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, the school has upheld a remarkably strict on-campus housing requirement.

It is because of this context that the CCSGA’s list of demands is so hard to understand. The first demand is to restore the number of seniors allowed to live on campus to current levels. If not, the email’s author hints that CC will be guilty of “contributing to the harms of colonialism.” This seems hyperbolic considering that guaranteed housing is rare at other colleges and universities. The demand to restore the number of slots currently available seems rather palatable, precisely because it argues that we should not change a single thing.

Presumably the limit on campus housing for seniors is a response to the housing shortage. Students have long demanded change on this front. Yet when the housing office takes a reasonable approach to addressing the issue, students stand in the way and argue that we must uphold the status quo.

Most importantly, however, it’s unclear whether lowering the number of seniors living on campus poses a problem at all. Might the new limit of 75 slots for seniors provide sufficient space for students who must live on-campus? If that is the case, then this outrage is wholly unjustified. Rather than specify that a problem does in fact exist (in reality, not in theory) and quantify its impact, CCSGA suggests that students occupy the housing office. This demonstration will only make work harder for the staff members who ultimately serve to help students. Additionally, CCSGA recommends that students overwhelm the inboxes of housing staff by sending a flurry of emails. 

CCSGA’s next demand is that CC create a new position of support to help students navigate the world of off-campus housing. CCSGA justifies its argument by claiming that the privileges they demand are necessary because CC is one of the most “expensive and prestigious universities in the U.S..”

At the same time, however, the student government proposes only policies which would raise the cost of attendance. Administrative and student support roles make up a fantastic portion of the ballooning cost of higher education. According to data from the National Center for Educational Statistics, from 1980 to 2014, spending on academic support, student services and institutional support grew by $109 billion. Adding to the payroll is not the solution. Rather than demanding more resources, staff or administrators to take care of us, students should take ownership to help bring about change.

Many of the skills which CCSGA seeks to expand through workshops are important. Perhaps more teaching of “life skills” would help. At the same time, these are the very skills students learn by living off-campus. Learning to find a lease, pay rent on time and deal with a landlord are vital experiences all students should have before they graduate.

The third demand CCSGA poses is to address financial insecurities for students living off campus. Specifically, the government asks to allow for early disbursement of student aid awards. This seems very reasonable. Interestingly, the best reason to live off campus is that it is often a better financial decision.

Off-campus rents are almost always cheaper than the $1,114 monthly rent CC charges for a single in the Big Three or a small house. Replace your required meal plan with groceries and the savings are astronomical. Thankfully, financial aid awards account for the cost of living on campus. Students who choose to take a cheaper room off campus keep any surplus of their aid award.

Next the authors propose expanding Safe Ride services or contracting with a rideshare company. Both policies are extremely expensive, and for the vast majority of students living off campus, unnecessary. Rather than raising spending and fossil fuel use, we should uphold a culture of walking, biking and public transportation among students.

At the end of the day, what CCSGA wants is a more equitable approach to housing. It’s unclear how any of their demands accomplish this. Expanding off-campus housing seems like the most cost-effective, easy to implement and sensible solution to the housing shortage.

Sadly, CCSGA seems more focused on spinning up outrage than addressing the underlying issues of the housing shortage. Their demands and way of asking for change is entitled, hypocritical and misguided. Students have come to occupy a role as consumers, paying far too much for higher education. The easy approach is to call for more resources and privileges, in turn, contributing to the cycle of rising costs. The harder task, which prepares us for what lies ahead, is to make the change ourselves.

[1] This email was sent on Monday 12/12/22 with the subject: “Take Action – Senior Housing.”

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