More housing options needed

Delaney Lovett

NMU requires that students live in the residence halls for their first two years or until they achieve junior status. It is the university’s hope and goal that living in the dorms will maximize students’ opportunities to get involved. While this is somewhat understandable, it is nearly impossible to receive an exception from living on campus; students can file for an exception due to financial issues or other extenuating circumstances, but a very small amount of the applications are approved.

Northern’s suggesting that financial issues can be a cause to lift the requirement of living in the residence halls implies that there are more affordable options off campus. It frustrates me that those options aren’t accessible to me and other students, and that the application and exception process makes it so difficult to save my or any student’s family a couple thousand dollars over the school year.

Living in the dorms is more expensive, partly due to the required on-campus meal plans. I rarely eat on campus, and although I was able to get just the 8 meals per week meal plan, it wasn’t much cheaper than the 14 per week or constant meal plan. With fewer meals comes more Cat Ca$h; this keeps the cost nearly as high, and students’ money on campus.

As for the community-building aspect, now that I’m a sophomore and have friends outside of my hall, I have little interest in making friends with all of my neighbors. By most students’ sophomore years, they have an idea of who they want to live with, and this could be off campus just as easily as in the dorms.

I am very involved in NMU activities through both the North Wind and the varsity track and field team. For some, residence halls are a great place to make friends and be involved in the community, but for others there are more accessible outlets. I’ve outgrown the dorms, and I want to move out into housing with a real lease, responsibilities and a kitchen.

Eastern, Western and Central Michigan Universities all require students to be on campus for their freshman year, but not beyond that. What makes Northern change such a substantial part of campus life?

While it could actually be to get students more involved on campus, it’s likely due to keeping the money of students on campus. CatTrax, for example, charges well over retail price for food items. The only reason I shop there is that I already have the money in my account; otherwise I would make the occasional trip out to Walmart for lower, more reasonable prices.

CMU is opening more on-campus apartments a year from now, and I think this spells out a reasonable solution for Northern students. On-campus apartments give students the convenience factor of being in walking distance of classes as well as the responsibility and freedom of living on their own.

There are two unused residence halls, Lee Hall and Carey Hall, located on Lee Drive. NMU could renovate the buildings and turn them into more on-campus apartments, perhaps even specifically geared toward younger students interested in living on-campus. Spooner Hall, for example, has both single rooms that share a bathroom and two-person apartments that contain a kitchenette. However, it is only for upperclassmen and students over 21 years old.

If Northern were to offer less expensive options and more housing alternatives to underclassmen, students would have the ability to decide whether or not they want to live in the dorms. As a sophomore living in the dorms, I’d like to have the choice.