By Carina Sorrentino
On Feb. 27, members of the class of 2015 who were not released for off-campus housing were interviewed by Time Warner Cable.
In the interview, Davis Cutter ’15 and Joseph DeMember ’15, two students who signed leases but did not get released off-campus, argued that they owed over $15,000 to pay for the house they already leased plus the room and board fees on campus.
On March 4, some of those 88 students not released met with the Concordiensis to discuss their situation. These students wished to remain anonymous. This article reflects the views of those students involved in the discussion. The college administration has been contacted with inquiries but has not responded as of press time.
Most of these students signed leases to live off campus during their senior year with the belief that Union has lacked enough residential space for seniors in recent years; additionally, since leases for off-campus housing options surrounding campus are extremely competitive, students are often coerced into signing leases prematurely before being released from campus.
Furthermore, the financial aspect of the housing situation has placed an even greater burden on students, as an initial motivation for living off-campus is often to save money on tuition.
However, the college’s rejection to release some students may now end up costing these students thousands of dollars.
The denial for off-campus living means that these students will have to pay tuition for room and board and may potentially face consequences for breaking already signed leases, which could add to their expenses if they need to pay landlords or lawyers.
“As of right now, 58 out of the 88 students are locked into leases that they legally cannot withdraw from,” reported a representative of the group, who wished to stay anonymous.
The concern is reaching beyond this group of students, and has come to include alumni, parents and potential future students. According to the group of students, some parents who donate annually to Union are upset by this situation and are becoming reluctant to make future donations.
Students in this group expressed that they are not only feeling alienated by the administration, but also hesitant to give back to Union post-graduation after facing their residential struggles.
Right now, a major deciding factor for the number of seniors released from on-campus housing is the size of the incoming class of 2018. While Union is aiming for an ideal class size of 570 students, if more than that number enroll, then more seniors may be released.
The results of the incoming freshman class size will be reported on May 1.
The group of students stated that they are concerned that, if they attempt to get out of their leases, they will then find out that they can, in fact, be released due to the potential amount of residential space the incoming class will occupy.
The group that met with the Concordiensis also expressed that they are willing to meet the school halfway by paying their rent and then giving the school the difference between that cost and what they would pay for room and board.
Furthermore, the representative group for the unreleased students has stated that their primary goal is to make sure that this kind of issue does not occur again. They hope to accomplish this by teaming up with the school to either make the off-campus release process start during sophomore year when students typically sign leases or to find a solution to the competitiveness of the process.
“There is a need for policy change right now for our class, because leases have already been signed and there is not much that we can change contractually now,” stated another anonymous student. “However, our class mainly wants to be proactive and make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
“We want to form some sort of committee and get actual numbers from the classes before they make this decision. Knowing more statistics, such as how many students want to live off-campus ahead of time, could be a big help,” another anonymous rising senior said.
According to one member of the representative group who works as a tour guide on campus explained that Union instructs tour guides to tell prospective students that seniors get to live off-campus.
Now, after being denied release, some are questioning whether it is acceptable to give that information to prospective students.
Each of these 88 students hopes to preserve the opportunity to live off-campus as a senior.
“If you’re looking at a school and you know that you are required to live on-campus for all four years, then you are probably going to reconsider going there, solely because there is an experience to having that opportunity,” commented another anonymous student.
As winter term draws to a close, the number-one priority for these unreleased students is seeing the process change, not only for the class of 2015, but also for those who are going to go through the same process in coming years.
Concluding, the students remarked, “It’s more than just money and it’s more than just 88 kids.”