Room and board not included: Colleges struggle to house students amid rising tuition costs

Parklawn+is+one+of+the+University+of+Iowa%E2%80%99s+oldest+dorm+halls.+It+was+recently+reopened+to+accommodate+more+students%2C+which+has+posed+a+challenge+for+UI+freshman.%0A

Alex Glennon

Parklawn is one of the University of Iowa’s oldest dorm halls. It was recently reopened to accommodate more students, which has posed a challenge for UI freshman.

Tommy Glennon, Copy Editor

College is the dream of many high school students. Independence, new horizons and a fresh start await students who can hurdle the financial barrier of tuition and room and board.

Still, stepping into your very own college dorm room is a magical and transformative experience. For students who get dorm rooms, that is.

According to the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice at Temple University, more than 40% of college students currently experience housing insecurity, whether this is in regard to on-campus housing or off-campus housing. For off-campus housing, students may struggle to find affordable apartments close to campus. While a difficult situation, off-campus housing is never guaranteed, and many students have on-campus options to fall back on. Rather, they’re supposed to. 

“[The University of California: Los Angeles] is  suffering from a housing problem. They just bought a community college campus about 30 minutes away for additional housing and classes,” said PV alum Caroline Sierk. A student at UCLA, Sierk has found that the prestigious institution struggles to house its 31,000 undergraduate students. “I’m in a room built for two people, but I’m living with two roommates,” Sierk shared. 

While the American housing crisis understandably affects college housing, most universities are still requiring a full housing payment for unfavorable living conditions. While college tuition rises globally, the cost of room and board has soared even faster than general tuition, rising 111% over 30 years after accounting for inflation.

Locally, this crisis has plagued the University of Iowa, which reopened the Parklawn dorm hall this year amid a surge in housing demand. Students report that the hall’s location and quality were among the factors that made their living experience sub-par. “While I wouldn’t say my personal experience was ‘insecure’, I actually lived in [Parklawn], and a lot of stuff there was pretty broken and it was far from the center of campus,” PV alum Lauren McGovern commented. “Since getting here, I have met multiple people in insecure housing situations, including someone who had to stay in our room for a week.”

While the situation seems to have a clear explanation in the perceived increase of college students globally, the Education Data Initiative has found that, since 2010, college enrollment rates have fallen by nearly 22% based on preliminary 2022 enrollment data. The 4.8 million difference in students should lessen the burden of on-campus housing posed to colleges, but most students living in dorm halls would hastily debate that. Is there a clear cause, then?

One possibility might be the rampant inflation that has raged since early 2020. However, the cost of housing increases each year to adjust for inflation and students are reporting soaring room and board costs across the nation. There may be no simple answer; this crisis could be due to an increase in the cost of construction and land, but could just as easily be the product of corruption in academia. 

Causes aside, the college housing crisis doesn’t seem to be going anywhere, so students should be mindful of early application deadlines and housing availability. The transition to college is stressful enough; no student should be concerned with whether or not they have a place to sleep.