I’m lucky enough to live in campus housing, a place with good neighbors, an awesome resident assistant, and access to the entire campus right from my doorstep.
Others don’t have such luxury. A classmate of mine last term lived in Southeast Portland and had to bike several miles to campus each day. Another acquaintance lived in West Linn and drove to school each and every morning, hunting for one of the elusive parking spots somewhere within a mile of campus. I see this and am glad that I live on campus.
Unfortunately, not everyone who wants to live on campus has the opportunity to do so. It is for this reason that I hope that Portland State will soon consider adding more housing units to their current list.
It’s no secret that the university is considered a commuter school and that many students have no desire to live on campus. This is a good thing, but I fear that it overshadows the very real needs of students who want to live near or on campus. When I was a prospective student exploring my options for education across the state, housing availability was a significant deciding factor. Other schools offered substantial housing options, and some even made it mandatory to live on campus for freshmen. PSU’s strength as an institution was strong enough that I decided to attend regardless of my ability to live on campus.
So I’m left wondering why PSU’s housing choices are so poor. The obvious answer is simple logistics and economics. As an urban campus, space is limited and that space would be better suited to expanding classrooms and other educational buildings. Additionally, housing is expensive for the school to acquire and maintain, and there are housing options near campus that, one could argue, fill the needs of current and future students.
But this argument fails to address the very basic need that plagues almost all college students: finding affordable housing. Many students choose campus housing because it is easy to get, it provides quick access to classes, and the various hoops that are required to find an apartment in the city simply don’t exist.
Now, make no mistake, campus housing has its drawbacks. It’s expensive, loud neighbors can drive one to the brink of insanity, and when people share things like kitchens and laundry rooms, theft is an ever-present possibility. Not to mention the unreliability of certain building systems in the historic units.
However, I feel that these drawbacks are not sufficient enough to encourage students to look elsewhere for housing. I enjoy living on campus for the most part, and I can credit part of my success here to the fact that I don’t have a long commute and that I can simply walk straight home from class and hunker down with my studying. Hearing from other students who live on campus, this isn’t a unique feeling on my part.
Given this, I would encourage PSU to consider very strongly adding several residence halls to their current crop. Failing that, perhaps the university should invest in major renovations to the older residence halls such as Blackstone and Parkway and add more living space—as well as updating the heating, plumbing and electricity. I would also argue that perhaps the time has come for the university to raze these older buildings completely and rebuild larger, more energy efficient and accommodating housing structures in their footprints.
This past fall, 30 students who wanted to live on campus but were not able to get into campus housing were given rooms in the University Place Hotel until space became available this term in the normal housing units. This underscores the need students have for good housing options here on campus.
Perhaps the powers that be should take note.