The Cost of Freedom: Students opt to move off-campus after freshman year in the dorms

Every year most freshman at Chapman are eager to pack up their belongings and escape the dorm life, but freshman admitted after fall 2018 will have to wait a little longer for freedom.

Next fall semester, Chapman University will require students, starting with the class of 2022 to live in university housing for the duration of freshman and sophomore year, unless commuting from home. Up until now, students have had the option to move off campus after freshman year, unless they chose to stay. University officials say longer stays in university housing will foster a healthy campus culture.  

“Campus living requirements are supported by decades of significant research showing that students who live on campus tend to be more engaged, connected, and academically successful,” said Dave Sundby, Chapman’s Director of Residence Life and First Year Experience (RLFYE).

About 66 percent of undergraduate students currently live in non-university housing, whether that means they commute from home or have a lease on an apartment or house.

Nick O’Neill, a resident of Lantern Bay Apartments of Orange on Glassell St., said he prefers to live off campus than on campus. Although he admits there are some on-campus perks such as the Randall Dining Commons, typically known as “the caf” among students, and Panther Bucks, which can be used at on-campus eateries, he would rather live off campus.

“I like living in an apartment more than the dorms because there is more freedom to do what I want, and there isn’t a (resident advisor) checking up on you,” the sophomore business major said. “But I do miss not having to worry about finding a parking spot.”

O’Neill’s rent is $650 per month and the utility bill per roommate is typically about $20. O’Neill said the cost of off-campus living is a big incentive for him, since it is much cheaper than university housing.

As of 2016, the average monthly rent per apartment in Orange County was $1,762, a 2.3 percent increase from 2016, according to the OC register. The median value of owner-occupied housing units is $584,200, according to a Chapman University survey released in April.

The survey also reported that 59 percent of Orange County residents are in favor of rent control, and 56 percent agree housing prices are a serious issue in Orange County.

The following are the rates for university housing in 2018-2019, according to the Chapman website:

On-campus housing

North Morlan (double) $14,448

South Morlan (double) $15,330

Pralle-Sodaro Hall (triple) $14,610

Henley Hall (triple) $15,188

Glass Hall (triple) $15,188

Sandhu Residence Hall

  • 2-bedroom suite $16,880
  • 4-bedroom suite $18,654

Davis Apartments

  • 1 bd (double-triple) $10,858 – $7,636
  • 2 bd (triple-quad) $9,426 – $7,430

Harris Apartments

  • 1 bd (double) $8,554
  • 1 bd (triple) $5,804

University owned off-campus housing

Panther Village  

  • Studio (double) $9,438
  • Loft (triple) $11,016

Chapman Grand – for all unit types

  • Single bedroom $13,788
  • Double bedroom $12,002

Rates are significantly increase if a student requests to live in a single room or apartment, going as high as $28,000 depending on the building and unit.

RLFYE manages all housing costs, so instead of paying rent and utilities, students pay a flat rate for residence.

With the purchase of Chapman Grand, the university has the capacity to house another 900 students, this coupled with the residence hall being built at the Villa Park Orchards (VPO) Association Packing House will house about 60 percent of undergraduates, The Panther reported in November.

“Many of our peer institutions have a similar live-in requirement, and Chapman has been talking about moving towards this requirement long before I started here,” Sundby said. “The purchase of Chapman Grand and opening of VPO residential village in Fall 2019 finally put us in position to shift towards this undergraduate housing model.”

Time will tell whether the new policy is popular among students, but incoming freshmen political science major Nancy Lopez said she is not in favor of the requirement.

“I was really excited to get an apartment with whoever I became close friends with at Chapman,” Lopez said. “I have always wanted to live in an apartment and feel like an adult but now I’m upset that I have to wait until my junior year to move off campus.”

Freshmen health science major Reed Pozzi lives in Pralle-Sodaro Hall and is looking forward to having more space in an off-campus apartment next school year.

“I am really excited to move out of the dorms and have my own room because I’m tired of living in such a tiny space with two other roommates,” Pozzi said. “I also want to be able to buy groceries and have a kitchen so I can save money.”

The resident meal plan per semester is $2,461 – totaling almost $5,000 for a full academic year. Students who live in facilities without kitchens, i.e. the dorms, are required to get a meal plan.

Depending on where students opt to live, housing prices can be more or less than university housing costs.

“A room to rent is going to be the most cost effective option, and a single apartment on your own will be the most expensive,” said the university’s Off-Campus Housing Coordinator, Amanda Zamora “Rooms for rent usually start at $500 per month and go up from there, single apartments are usually $1500 per month and up from there.”

Some students also receive the Chapman Housing Grant in their financial aid packages, a $3,000 sum which they lose when they move off campus. This can make living in campus housing more cost effective.

Junior Biochemistry and Molecular Biology major Jarett Guillow has lived on campus for the three years he’s been at Chapman.

“Davis allowed me to live closer to campus to make the commute easier, especially considering morning practice for swim and also I do not have to pay for utilities.”

The Davis Apartments are one of the cheapest campus housing options, but are not available to freshman. A nine month lease in Davis can range from $10,000 to $13,000 for a double room, and as low as about $7,000 for a triple.

Guillow said he feels “more connected” to Chapman’s student culture living on campus.

Freshman Melanie Tran is studying pharmaceutical science and is looking forward to living in  Chapman Grand for her sophomore year.

“It’s so convenient because it’s close to campus and there’s transportation,” Tran said. “The apartment complex is really nice overall.”

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