Students that are new to the area may be in for a rude awakening: unlike other campuses in the Washington State University network, WSU Vancouver does not provide on-campus or campus-sponsored housing options for students.
The main WSU campus in Pullman operates 17 residence halls and nine apartment buildings, and sponsors 22 Greek houses for first-year student housing.
Other campuses in the WSU system operate differently – WSU Spokane has a contract with an online housing registry, Places4Students, that helps facilitate finding housing. In Spokane, rooms average $500 a month and several houses are available to rent for similar per-room costs.
A new housing facility was opened last August in Everett, the home to another WSU campus. According to My Everett News, it is shared between “Everett Community College, WSU North Puget Sound at Everett, and Western Washington University at Everett.” The rooms cost between $800 and $1000 a month. Cathy Wright, the Student Services Coordinator for WSU Everett said that there are “20 spaces, some of which hold up to 4 people, will be available for approximately 200 students enrolled. Each apartment provides a private bedroom.
WSU Tri-Cities is partnering with a local housing developer and is in the process of building apartments on campus that will house 700 students, as reported by the Tri-City Herald in June. The project is set to be completed in 2018.
So, what does WSU Vancouver have to offer students? An online bulletin board where students can sublet rooms from strangers.
Eduardo Ramos, a junior double-majoring in Strategic Communications and Public Affairs, transferred from the Pullman campus this September. “[I] looked into what WSU Vancouver offered in terms of coordinating things for you and it’s nonexistent,” Ramos said.” I even called the Student Resource Center and they said they had a bulletin board, noting that the Student Resource Center staff failed to mention the bulletin board is online.
According to the bulletin board, the average price for a sublet room is over $700 a month—of course, subletting is not really an option for nontraditional students such as married couples or parents. Renting an apartment is costlier – Ramos pays approximately $1,045 a month for a one-bedroom unit. The price does not include utilities.. “I don’t live in the Beverley Hills of Clark County,” he says, noting that the rent payment and quality of the apartment is on the lower end of the scale.
In contrast, when Ramos said in Pullman he paid $330, per room, for a three-bedroom off-campus apartment, utilities included.
The Portland-metro housing crisis poses a unique challenge to WSU Vancouver students. With enrollment at over 3,400, the highest among branch campuses, WSU Vancouver has the least to offer its students for housing.
In an interview for the VanCougar published last August, the Chancellor said “students want to live on campus for [the price of] what they would pay for an apartment or less, and that’s very hard for a campus to deliver.”
On-campus housing, albeit expensive, includes of security, utilities, state-of-the-art facilities, and is more accessible for students, allowing them to save on transportation costs. All of this might make on-campus housing worthwhile for WSU Vancouver students.
“There are many advantages [to living on campus],” Ramos said. “For one, there’s more opportunity to use financial aid and scholarships. Secondly, it’s also convenient to be on-campus. Doing homework, going to professor’s office hours, all of this is accessible. And three, with on-campus housing, that means there is always food that you can use funding for.”
Another problem for students is that the vacancy rate in the metro area is hovering at about 2% and according to the Columbian, is among the lowest in the country. For students moving to the area or out of their parent’s house, finding an available apartment may prove to be more challenging than finding the means to pay for it. Ramos said, “the biggest challenge [of moving] was finding [an apartment] that was available on a short turnaround.
“And applying to different places was difficult because I had to pay an application fee. I couldn’t just apply everywhere,” he added.
Finding roommates is exacerbated by the demographics of the WSU Vancouver. Ramos said, “Because it is a commuter campus, how am I expected to make friends? Most people live with their parents still or are married. At Pullman, you say ‘hey you want to live together?’ You face the struggle together, as students.”
Although there are some ideas as to how dorms could be built at WSU Vancouver, they are not on the immediate agenda, and many students are struggling now to find affordable housing options. This begs the question: what else can WSU Vancouver do to serve students’ housing needs?
According to Nancy Youlden in an interview with Katie Gillespie of the Columbian, “the whole idea of housing certainly supports our land-grant mission of access, openness and service,” but there are not any fleshed-out plans in place to really tackle the housing issue.