I recently began searching for an apartment in Des Moines. The experience has been exciting, my post-Simpson chapter is almost underway, but it also allowed me to reflect on my living arrangements throughout college.
Like most Simpson students, I lived in the first-year dorms, followed by a suite in Buxton Hall shared by seven guys and have since resided in the Clinton Apartments with some of the same roommates.
My housing history has also included paying $190 a month to live in a wonderfully disgusting house with nine other football players and sharing a one-bedroom apartment in Washington, D.C. with three strangers.
When searching for my new home, I had three priorities: I wanted to live alone, have new appliances and not break my bank. All three are impossible to achieve while going to Simpson, but I was surprised to find how easy it is to rent a really nice place for a reasonable amount elsewhere.
After experiencing living in a dump for under $200 a month and now being able to afford what I want, I’m unsure why I’ve been paying so much to live in subpar conditions on campus.
It’s time for Simpson College to stop gouging students with unreasonable room and board costs.
Let’s consider the Clinton Apartments. For one semester, I owe $2,374. Among all the other fees that go along with attending college, this number can get hidden in the shuffle. Broken down over roughly four months, I’m paying $593.50 each month. So are my roommates, of which I have three. This means Simpson is charging $2,374 a month for an outdated two-bedroom place.
Now, let’s look at my new apartment. It was built in 2016, has a pool and gym, sits just a short distance from downtown Des Moines and my neighbors are NBA Developmental League players. I’m paying $850 a month.
In what world is a Clinton Apartment worth $1,524 more than that? Wouldn’t it be great if students could seek these opportunities without facing a penalty of lost scholarships?
I do not mean to say Simpson is maliciously preying upon its students. Living on campus is a valuable experience. In fact, it’s a crucial element of American higher education. Thomas Jefferson invented the idea of a college campus where a community atmosphere fosters an environment for learning.
I do mean to say Simpson should either improve living spaces or lower housing costs. For a while, they kept prices stagnant, but the fact remains they’ve always been too high. The quality of housing isn’t unlivable, but we live with occasional mold, cramped rooms and constant monitoring by Community Advisors.
Simpson says we’re rewarded for living on campus with extra scholarships to offset the cost, but these scholarships vary person to person and you’ll only find out what they are when they’re taken away because you decided to live off-campus.
Still, I’m pessimistic about Simpson agreeing to lower costs.
First, students benefiting from the Simpson Promise still pay room and board. Getting a couple thousand dollars a semester through housing ensures the college still gets their money.
Second, our enrollment is down, and we’ve already said goodbye to faculty and entire programs.
It’s worth noting, Simpson isn’t alone in this housing epidemic. It’s a problem affecting almost all in higher education. Central College charges $2,446 per semester. Wartburg, Loras and Coe are in the same ballpark. Simpson is in the middle of the road when compared to peer institutions.
Sure, we can point to other schools to justify our prices, but Simpson has an opportunity to break the trend. Instead of up-charging students and packaging room and board as a cost of education, we could be the school ensuring students receive a fair exchange.
I do not envy the personnel responsible for making the college’s financial decision, and I commend the efforts to raise funds through the new “Imagine the Impact” campaign. However, Simpson must seriously consider how those funds could be used to update housing to ensure students get a fair deal.
This may all sound like the ranting of a frustrated senior blowing off steam before he leaves this school, and it may be somewhat true, but I only write in hopes that Simpson College will continue to strive for excellence.
Simpson has been my home for three and a half years. I met my best friends, made incredible memories and grew leaps and bounds into the person I am today. I hope others may have a similar experience. The professors, administrators and entire staff care deeply about students, so please consider giving them a much-needed financial break.