Treat freshman like students, not customers

Current rules place monopoly on housing, forces students to overpay for poor conditions

ALEX BIVIANO, Evergreen columnist

The cost of a residence hall room at WSU is one of the single most overpriced items someone could pay for in Washington.

Living in Goldsworthy Hall, or any of the “cheaper” residence halls, costs $1400 per month, while the most expensive on-campus apartments are listed at $636 per month.

In a free-market setting, this kind of pricing would not be sustainable. Very few consumers would pay a threefold markup for a subpar product when all they would receive is convenience.

On top of the bloated pricing, residence hall conditions are often not worth the cost. This semester alone, my residence hall had two ceiling leaks and an elevator, which frequently smells like it’s on fire, that broke down three times.

The university is able to do all of these things to the students they claim to support because of the Washington state rule that requires first-year students to stay in a residence hall. The only exceptions are those living with family or who already have a degree upon arrival.

This rule was put in place so students form relationships with each other and get to know their campus as first-year students. On the surface, this requirement seems like the state’s heart was in the right place.

The problem is that the state has a monopoly over first-year students when it comes to housing. Students do not have any way to negotiate a fair deal with the university like they would in other renting situations.

On the free market, a monthly rent of $1400 would include a bathroom and kitchen, with an optional roommate. Instead, the power shifts to the university and there is no lenience when it comes to what the renter receives out of their deal with their landlord.

Another benefit of the free market is that negotiation ensures both sides work for an agreement. A landlord wants a tenant as much as a tenant wants a place to live. For example, under normal conditions, a tenant would be able to withhold rent until conditions are improved, but instead the university requires rent to be paid on time, regardless of living conditions.

Harrison Wisti, a freshman architecture major and resident at Goldsworthy, is also frustrated with how the university overcharges students, especially due to the subpar conditions of the South side of campus in comparison to the wealthier North side.

“It feels very biased that as a whole, housing and dining programs favor some residence halls over others,” Wisti said.

Students who pay more are given extra attention by the university compared to those who live in less expensive residence halls.

If students are going to be forced into residence halls, there should be options available that are priced closer to on-campus apartments. The university should decrease disparity between the North side and South side of campus to ensure all students receive fair treatment.

The university should also rescind the rule that requires first-year students to live in residence halls so students have more negotiation power when choosing their housing.

Students work extremely hard and already pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to WSU. In return, the university should provide students with living conditions that are fairly priced.