Aid Packages Cause Housing Imbalance for Some Seniors
Published: Thursday, September 27, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 15, 2012 01:11
From choosing a roommate to participating in the lottery, housing at Kenyon can cause considerable, sometimes unnecessary, stress. Paying for housing, however, should not factor into that stress, according to Campus Senate Co-Chair Monty Clark ’13.
With this in mind, Clark will present the issue of housing and financial aid to the Senate this year with the goal of educating members about the subject. “Currently what I’m interested in is that as a senior, my [housing] options were limited, and I wanted to see if it’s a problem or if it’s just a problem as I view it,” she said.
As it stands, financial aid only covers the cost of a dormitory double, which at Kenyon is $4,540 per year. For first years and sophomores, who almost exclusively live in dormitory doubles, receiving the maximum $4,540 in financial aid is rarely an issue.
But for some juniors and most seniors who wish to live in apartment housing and are awarded aid, the difference they pay between a dormitory double and an apartment single or double may make them rethink their housing option. Even so, students are normally able to figure out a way to live where they want, according to Alicia Dugas, assistant dean of students for Housing and Residential Life.
“I don’t have a lot of students come to me, but the ones who do end up coming to our office are really disappointed because they can’t live with the group of friends that they want or in a location that they want,” Dugas said. “The housing situation at Kenyon is sometimes stressful because it involves friendship groups and locations and a random lottery process that is hard to predict.”
Clark said the pressure housing causes might also have to do with Kenyon students’ lack of communication about or acceptance of each other’s financial situations.
“There’s a very huge disconnect between the student body and accepting socio-economic differences because I think it’s an invisible diversity, and therefore nobody talks about it, and people feel ashamed because of it,” Clark said. “I don’t think that necessarily it’s just housing that’s the problem. I think that it’s our culture — and not just within the Kenyon culture — it’s our society, where we don’t feel pride in our socio-economic differences.”
Director of Financial Aid Craig Daugherty said the College’s housing difficulties exist, in part, because of Kenyon’s status as a residential campus and its dedication to maintaining a community-based environment.
“I think it makes perfectly good sense for an 18-to 22-year-old population that everyone does stay on campus and have a chance to interact and become friends in and out of the classroom,” Daugherty said.
Like Dugas, he does not see many students who feel they are at a housing disadvantage because of their financial aid package. “I think they know what the situation is, and we try to disseminate that in all of our mailings and communications, so I would like to think [students and parents are] well-informed,” Daugherty said.
Still, a study headed by Associate Vice President for Finance Teri Blanchard shows seniors on financial aid do face some disadvantages because most live in higher-priced housing than a standard double.
Blanchard’s study suggests seniors on need-based financial aid may have a housing disadvantage. She said this is because the average room rate for seniors is higher than the cost of a standard double by $2,416, leaving that difference to be covered by the student.
“If everybody had all the money they wanted that they could spend on housing, you’d still have a bunch of kids who didn’t live in non-residence halls because there just isn’t enough housing,” Blanchard said. “There’s kind of equal opportunity, but what it also showed, under the average room rates, is that there probably is a bit of disparity between those with need-based aid and those without because the average room rate tends to be a little bit higher.”
According to Blanchard’s study, if financial aid were to cover the room rate paid by the average senior, individual financial aid housing allotments would rise by $2,416. Such a change would cost the College an additional $320,642 per year in financial aid. Added to the revenue Kenyon would lose if financial aid covered the average room rate, the total cost of such a change would be $661,006 per year. In addition to this cost, the increase in housing aid would disadvantage first years and sophomores whose average room rate is much lower than that of a senior.
“Could it be changed? Sure,” Blanchard said. “Is it high enough priority for that to happen? From my point of view in looking at this data, I think it’s … clear this is really a senior issue. So do you change the whole plan to correct something that isn’t broken for [all] classes?” Blanchard suggested that such a financial policy could be implemented for seniors only, if at all.
Dugas agreed, but she believes the next housing focus should be on renovation. “I don’t know if that’s the best use of Kenyon resources or not, but it would be nice in an ideal world to say that students got to live wherever they wanted,” she said. “For me it’s about renovation, and it’s about making sure that our spaces that we have, the doubles and singles in our apartments and our residence halls … are all [in] tiptop shape.”
Clark said she hopes first and foremost that Senate, and then students, can become more educated about the particulars of housing in relation to both financial aid and availability. “I don’t think that there’s one single answer,” said Clark. “I think awareness is going to be the biggest solution.”