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  • Lea Kapur

The never-ending rise: how Boston University’s increase in housing rates disproportionately affects

Boston University (BU) students are struggling to find affordable housing as the university continues to increase housing rates. This disproportionately affects low-income students, who bear larger financial burdens to support their education. Low-income students may often feel trapped in on-campus housing due to their financial aid packages, or other financial limitations. BU should better accommodate low-income students by providing more affordable options.

BU offers two main types of on-campus residences: traditional-style and apartment-style. Within traditional-style housing, there are three dorm options, double, triple, and quad rooms. These students can have between one and three roommates, who all share a common bathroom among their floor. For all traditional-style dorms, students are required to have a dining plan, which significantly raises the cost of living on-campus.

The second type of dorms on campus are apartment-style dorms. These residences include a kitchen and living room, but vary in price depending on size and number of bedrooms. The housing for an apartment is cheaper than the traditional-style because students are not required to have a dining plan. However, there is high demand among students for a limited amount of apartments which makes it very hard for students to get in.

The cheapest housing and dining plan bundle available at BU, the newly estimated price has increased $480 from the 2019-2020 academic year to the 2020-2021 academic year, according to the Boston University Housing website. Previously, the cheapest on-campus housing and dining bundle cost $16,160 per year. When compared with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), BU has very limited options for its students. There are three “tiers” of housing and only the first “tier” requires students to have a dining plan, according to the MIT Division of Student of Life website. For example, a student could live in either Burton Conner or Next House, both of which do not require a dining plan, and only pay $8,710 for a three-person room for the entire academic year, according to the MIT Division of Student Life website. According to MIT Housing and Residential Services, these residence halls either have kitchens or meals prepared for students. Therefore, the argument that BU housing is expensive due to location loses its validity when a peer university, such as MIT, is able to provide multiple affordable housing options for its students, while being located in the greater Boston area.

Aside from BU housing, many students choose to live off campus to save money. The average one-bedroom apartment rate in Allston, MA is approximately $17,100 for the BU academic school year (September-May), according to Real Estate, a housing website partnered with the Boston Globe. On average, a single bedroom apartment is cheaper than the lowest single-room rate at BU which is $17,460, according to the Boston University Housing website.

The Charles River Housing Grant awards students who demonstrate financial need and live in university housing, according to the Boston University Financial Assistance website. If a student was to move off-campus, they would lose this money from the university. While low-income students likely cannot afford BU housing rates, the university allows students to take out loans, meaning they do not have to bear the cost now. Due to these restrictions, low-income students have no bargaining power and are trapped in on-campus housing even as the prices continue to rise. While off-campus housing may be cheaper, many low-income students do not have the option to live off-campus due to their financial aid package, or lack of readily available funds to pay monthly rent prices. This increase in pricing affects all students attending Boston University, but especially low-income students receiving financial aid.

Therefore, it is clear that BU needs to join its peer schools to provide more affordable housing for low-income students. Currently, there is only one option for low-income housing, the Harriet E. Richards (H.E.R.) Cooperate House. The goal of the house is to provide a housing option to “undergraduate women, cisgender and transgender women alike, dependent on financial aid,” according to the H.E.R. House website.

Quinn Chappelle, a co-clerk, Public Relations Committee Head and resident of H.E.R. House (and Vice President of the BPR), describes why low-income housing like H.E.R. House is necessary. “A lot of people are suffering economically from taking out student loans,” said Chappelle. Chappelle states that while BU is accepting more moderate-income and low-income students for admission, the university is not doing enough to support these students throughout their four years.

The cost to live at H.E.R. House is about $1,500 per semester, and unlike most on-campus housing, H.E.R. House does not require students to pay for a dining plan. The residents cook meals and take part in other activities together. While H.E.R. House is an example that low-income housing is available, it is the only example, and the maximum capacity is 24 people. There are more than 24 students who need low-income housing. In addition, there are no low-income housing options for men, as they cannot apply to live at the H.E.R. House.

If housing prices keep increasing at this rate per year, this will eventually discourage low-income students from attending BU or will continue to increase the number of loans low-income students take to attend a prestigious university. It is imperative that BU provides more low-income housing options for students, and creates a four-year, lock-in price for housing. This would ensure that students understand the cost of housing at the start of their education.

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