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There are few things more fright­ening for a college sophomore than finding out your off-campus house has bedbugs. That was me last year. Tech­ni­cally speaking, they were bat bugs, meaning they orig­i­nated from the bats living in our walls, but when bat bugs are hungry, they feast just like their bedridden friends.

My first off-campus expe­rience was subpar to say the least. My antic­i­pated roommate left abruptly for a job opening in the Trump Admin­is­tration, pipes burst, the air-con­di­tioning broke, and I spent second semester living in con­stant fear that the blood-hungry bugs from upstairs would make a pil­grimage down to my room on the first floor.

Despite this, I am still not an advocate of on-campus housing for upper­classmen. But that could change if the college pro­vided better options.

The college has said in recent years they would prefer more stu­dents to live on-campus. Whether the rea­soning is related to on-campus culture, safety, or financial con­cerns, the college should update its housing options to reflect its new goals.

As it stands today, on-campus housing does have some ben­efits. Most notably, the ease of mind that comes with the college being your landlord. If a pipe bursts or you encounter pest problems, you don’t have to play tug of war with your landlord — instead, you can just call the full-time main­te­nance staff.

Ever forget to pay the heating or internet bill? The fear of your credit score dropping also dis­si­pates when the college handles your util­ities. Many on-campus housing options also have cleaning ser­vices that at the very least, do sea­sonal cleans, and in some instances, vacuum and clean the bathroom twice a week.

Hillsdale College dorms do provide all these amenities, but most upper­classmen don’t want to and should not have to live in a dor­mitory. They don’t need the same dorm culture freshmen might appre­ciate — they’ve already made friends and have become accus­tomed to living on their own.

They don’t want to live in a one-room living space because once you’re that close to adulthood, you desire living arrange­ments that include kitchens and areas for social gath­erings.

Shock­ingly, a 21-year-old junior isn’t going to want to live in a dry dor­mitory shared with freshmen because 21 years in (one of the oldest legal drinking ages in the history of the U.S. and the world), he probably feels entitled to keep a six-pack of beer in his fridge.

No upper­classman should be charged $730 more a semester to live in the Suites either. Though it’s con­ve­nient to once again have an indi­vidual room, a single bedroom in the Suites is little more than a dorm room, with only enough space for a twin bed, a desk, and drawers. Each suite has, as the college describes it, a “kitch­enette,” which amounts to a sink, microwave, and a fridge, leaving little room for any­thing but microwaveable meals. This shouldn’t be con­sidered an ade­quate alter­native to off-campus living.

Hillsdale, Michigan isn’t exactly pressed for space. Housing for on-campus upper­classmen does not need to feel cramped. Nor should it cost at least $1,000 more than what an apartment at 42 Union costs (one of the more expensive off-campus living options).

Instead of building new dorms with shared bath­rooms, build larger suites or town­houses, with walls that aren’t paper thin, floors that don’t crack, and yes, with a real kitchen — stove and oven included. Off-campus town­houses are cur­rently available to stu­dents, but at a massive cost. Single rooms in one of the recently-con­structed College Park Town­houses cost about $850 a month.

Hillsdale would be fol­lowing many other small-midsize private insti­tu­tions that have taken the same path. While on a college sailing trip, I visited Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Like Hillsdale, the school is well-funded, but unlike Hillsdale, it has used some of its endowment to build on-campus town­homes called cot­tages, built in cir­cular for­ma­tions to encourage com­munity between the homes.

“As you learn, develop and grow in and outside of the classroom, your Hope housing options grow with you,” The Hope College website states. “You’ll start off living in highly com­munal res­i­dence halls your first and second years, then move to more inde­pendent but college-sup­ported cot­tages and apartment living during your junior and senior years.”

Living on-campus does not need to make upper­classmen feel like they’ve been deprived of inde­pen­dence. There is a balance to be struck between the support the college can offer and the freedoms upper­classmen should be able to earn. The college should further its mission of fos­tering self-gov­er­nance and develop an ade­quate plan for upper­classmen housing.

  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    ask not what the college can do for you (because they won’t) and what you can do for yourself. Let’s make a plan, get some capital from alumni, and let’s work on buying/renovating some of the spots near campus. They can be good long-term invest­ments that keep alumni focused on what is going on & coming back to campus.

    • George Gibbs

      Good idea.

    • Ellsworth_Toohey

      Be aware it was a alumni who dic­tated a donation go to the chapel despite the need for housing, so they often don’t work within rational market needs. Myself, I trust the private sector… the real private sector and the profit moti­vation. To facil­itate that, the college could stop trying to interfere with it (mandatory meal plans, buying up and destroying private sector housing, the lottery to live off campus, etc) and embrace local cap­i­talism.

      • Jen­nifer Melfi

        like a lot of things, we don’t know what kind of con­ver­sa­tions went on about that donation. I would have walked them over to college baptist and allowed them to ponder for a while… you know, con­sid­ering Hillsdale’s current financial sit­u­ation — more building and more $ isn’t nec­es­sarily the answer. Every building creates financial lia­bil­ities in the future for main­te­nance. If the building isn’t directly related to student affairs or aca­demic use, I wonder how they roll it into the budget.