On Campus: Close to Home

UC San Diego has just earned an unusual accolade — it’s the only school in the UC system that guarantees four years of on-campus housing.

Maybe it’s the strict “quiet hours,” and the party-busting RSO’s. Or maybe it’s the inconvenient, mandatory meal plans and the high on-campus housing rates they come with. Whatever the cause, students at other UC campuses flock to nearby off-campus communities as soon as they can. Tritons, however, seem comfortable enough calling campus their home.

While students at Santa Barbara have a thriving off-campus college community, Isla Vista, to house them after a year or two on campus, La Jolla has no such equivalent; UCSD students tend to scatter across neighborhoods like Hillcrest, Pacific Beach and Clairemont Mesa. A universal “top choice” for UCSD students doesn’t exist.

Students have cited cold relations between the traditionally affluent La Jollan community and the campus as reason for a lack of a viable, central off-campus community.

Peggy Chodorow, who co-founded Team Chodorow of San Diego, one of the most dominant forces in the La Jolla Real Estate Market, explained that this is not necessarily the case.

“Having the university here has brought a better equilibrium to La Jolla. People like that there are young people coming to the area and invigorating the town,” Chodorow said. “I haven’t heard of any negativity from residents. They get to interact and take part in UCSD activities, and enjoy the students being here.”

Instead, La Jolla’s lack of opportunities for a college social scene can be attributed to its price tag. In downtown San Diego, $1,500 per month will get you a high-end two-bedroom apartment. In La Jolla, the same amount might get you a one-bedroom, at most. Most students split one-bedroom apartments, which average at roughly $7,500 per year. The cost of living in a single room in an on-campus apartment is $10,966 for the 2012-13 academic year. It costs roughly $3,500 more to live on campus for a year at UCSD.

To compare this with a university that has a thriving off-campus culture, it costs $13,275 per year to live on campus at UC Santa Barbara, and just $6,000 to live off campus at the student-dominated Isla Vista apartment community nearby.

The $7,275 differential makes it logical for UC Santa Barbara students to move off campus, giving no practical reason for a four-year housing guarantee. Also, the affordability of Isla Vista has allowed students to establish a strong, close-knit community.

But things are different for UCSD students who want to live off campus due to La Jolla’s high cost of living and notoriously absent community. Thus, for many students, choosing to prolong their stay on campus is a reasonable decision, and the newly announced four-year housing guarantee caters exactly to this point.

“[UC] Santa Barbara is in a commercial area, while UCSD is not. Students have to go to downtown to get that commercial feel,” Chodorow said. For junior Revelle College student Alexander Taylor, who lives in the Sixth College apartments, the community that on-campus living provides, which the La Jolla community lacks, justifies the higher cost of housing.

“[The expense differential] isn’t a big deal for me,” Taylor said. “I just like the community living on campus, not having to take a bus. I don’t regret it at all.”