On-campus living is a requirement for freshmen this year. By 2023, living on campus might become a reality for Cal Poly sophomores as well, as required by the the Cal Poly Strategic Plan.
However, this mandate could come at a cost to lower and middle-income students.
According to administrators, the benefits of having students live on campus outweigh the costs and it would be doing students a disservice to not require them to live on campus.
Cal Poly tuition is roughly $9,000 for California residents. On-campus dining and housing costs are roughly $12,000. The cost of eating and living on campus is roughly $3,000 more than tuition for California residents.
The total cost of living on campus for California residents — found by adding tuition, dining and housing costs — is $21,000, which is more than double the cost of tuition for one year.
Vice President of Student Affairs Keith Humphrey said financial aid covers these costs.
“Financial aid has to cover the full cost of attendance at the university,” Humphrey said. “Every student that does file a FAFSA, depending on what their family contribution is, the university puts together a financial aid package for them that is a combination of grants and loans that fully meets the cost of attendance.”
Even though the whole financial aid package does cover the cost of attendance, most of that money could be coming from loans, depending on the student’s guardians’ incomes.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014, middle-income families were described as making between $42,000 and $125,000 per year. A sophomore applying for FAFSA with an income in this range can get up to almost $9,000 in grants if they receive the maximum amount for each offered grant.
Even with the maximum amount of aid, middle-income students still need another $12,000 to attend Cal Poly and live on campus. This difference is often made up with loans.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, the 2014 national average of student debt is roughly $23,000. With tuition on the rise and more colleges requiring students to live on campus, the amount of debt students will graduate with will continue to increase.
It costs approximately $12,000 for a double bedroom and dining plan at Cal Poly. In a nine-month academic year, this comes out to about $1,300 a month for a shared 11-foot by 13-foot room and communal dining.
According to a 2014 survey from the United States Census Bureau, the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment in San Luis Obispo was $1,300 per month, which, split between two students, is $650 per month. With about $300 per month spent on food, this makes it a total of $950 per month – $350 per month cheaper than on-campus housing.
In a recent survey conducted by Mustang News, several respondents said they moved off campus to save money.
“Living on campus is too expensive. I think the prices increased by $100 [per month] in PCV for shared and single rooms. Off-campus, rent can be as low as $400 but also as high as $900 — similar to on-campus,” one off-campus respondent said.
Software engineering senior Jason Sawatzky said he benefited from living off-campus his sophomore year.
“I enjoyed the personal independence and growth that living off campus my second year provided,” Sawatzky said. “However, the primary reason I declined staying on campus was avoiding high campus housing costs and preserving Cal Poly’s exceptional return on investment.”
Despite the affordability of places off-campus, Humphrey said sometimes living in cheaper housing means living in unsafe housing.
“I think there are places that we know students choose to live off campus that are more affordable; we also know that they are not safe,” Humphrey said. “We’ve seen lots of incidents over the past three or four years of students getting hurt because they were living in places that were unsafe, but they were affordable.”
Humphrey also addressed student’s concerns of the social aspect of living off-campus.
“What that seemed to boil down to for students was that they wanted the ability to drink underage off campus,” Humphrey said.