The UC San Diego housing crisis has caused a major uproar, leaving some students considering living in cars, which is ironic since public universities are supposed to be promoting upward mobility. Given the worsening housing situation, UCSD should prioritize housing the entire student population because it can potentially boost academic performance and save time, energy, and money.
Living on campus gives students easy access to extracurricular clubs and learning experiences. Also, living on campus may influence students’ attitudes to be more serious and academic oriented. This can encourage students to use the campus resources they already pay for to the fullest extent. Indeed, a variety of academic papers have found some benefits for college students when living on campus.
Besides the benefits of on-campus housing, the lack of on-campus housing worsens the already strained financial situation of students. Students are very busy and want to make the most of their limited time at UCSD. Given the high tuition of college education, although students may not feel it, money is trickling away every minute of college life. Looking at the tuition alone, in-state students spend $0.05 and out-of-state students spend $0.14 for every minute over a school year.* Multiply this by how many minutes one would spend commuting from an off-campus location, and the results can get unexpectedly high.
In addition to sucking away time and money, off-campus housing puts students at the mercy of ruthless business practices. Rental companies pit students against each other and collect application fees from the frenzied masses trying to secure a place to sleep. I personally remember spending hours on a rental company app, constantly refreshing every second to apply to an opening before my fellow students. While there was recently a push to redistrict UCSD to ease the pressure of finding affordable off-campus housing, doing so will not guarantee better conditions. Fundamentally, there is a difference between for-profit, off-campus rental companies and non-profit, on-campus housing, so in theory, on-campus housing will be more affordable.
It is not impossible for UCSD to achieve housing for its entire student population. Compared to the materials needed to build housing, land is a much more limited resource. And UCSD already has an abundance of land in the prime location for students: right on campus. UCSD’s campus is huge, requiring many students to use bikes, scooters, and other means to get around, so there should be plenty of space to house students.
Not only does UCSD have an abundance of land, UCSD is fully capable of building new things. There always seems to be construction going on at UCSD;for example, the amphitheater near Camp Snoopy that is funded by a $10 million dollar gift. However, an amphitheater will only benefit those who can afford to go, which is likely to exclude busy students, or those with non-art majors. On the other hand, that same money and land can be reallocated to build more housing. With the increase in housing supply, the principles of economics state that housing prices should decrease. And because everyone clearly has the need for housing, unlike the need for an amphitheater, then using that $10 million dollars on housing will be guaranteed to benefit everyone, thus having more utility than an amphitheater.
Another construction project is the proposed new 8th college. While more housing is created, an additional college will mean more students, meaning there is not a net increase in available housing. In fact, net housing availability will decrease due to the high influx of students compared to housing. The proposed 8th college dorms will house up to 2,050 students. However, even according to UCSD’s official undergraduate enrollment statistics, outdated to 2016, every college had more than 2,050 students. And those enrollment numbers have only increased since. It is much easier for UCSD to stamp a seal of approval on digital applications to admit more students than physically building more housing, and it is disappointing that UCSD chooses the easy way over the interests of current students.
The UCSD housing crisis puts an unacceptable amount of stress on students, who are already under the burden of high tuition. What makes it more ridiculous, is that UCSD should already have the resources; land and money, to provide students with on-campus housing, yet chooses to accept more students before ensuring a quality experience for existing students. The housing crisis left many students disillusioned and painfully aware of the consequences of not having affordable housing: a problem that plagues not only UCSD, but the US and the world at large. However, what this article has shown is that upon further inspection, what is more problematic are the vast underlying administrative issues that led to bad decisions.
* $14199 / (3 quarters * 10 weeks/quarter * 7 days/week * 24 hours/day * 60 minutes/hour) = $0.05 / minute
($14199 + $28992) / (3 quarters * 10 weeks/quarter * 7 days/week * 24 hours/day * 60 minutes/hour) = $0.14 / minute
Image courtesy of UCSD.