Living far from the 40 acres may be cheaper, but it certainly isn’t easier

Alyssa Neilson

With over 86 percent of students enrolled at the University choosing to live off campus this year, according to the Division of Housing and Food Service, there’s no question that hundreds of students get stuck in traffic jams down Interstate 35 while on their way to school — some 20 minutes late to classes regularly, others unable to consistently commit to meetings or appointments held on campus. 

So why do students look for housing beyond the immediate vicinity of campus? The answer has two parts: rent prices and livability.

For the majority of the University’s history, the second-most convenient alternative to living on campus has been living in West Campus. However, living so close to campus doesn’t come cheap. 

In mid-October, West Campus’ premier student apartments collectively announced their increased rent prices for the 2014-2015 school year (chiming in at $900 to $1,000 a month at 26 West, 2400 Nueces and The Quarters on Campus, according to representatives of those complexes). Although expected to drop before students begin signing new leases, numbers like these are what force thousands of students into living farther from campus in the first place. Secondly, along with its higher rent prices, West Campus has other stigmas — one of them being its infamous reputation for not being minority-friendly. Many students simply do not feel as though they belong there.

The University itself is home to 14 residence halls with a total of 7,300 beds — clearly not enough for UT’s 52,076 students. According to Hemlata Jhaveri, director of the Division of Housing and Food Service, “Any student that applies for a housing contract can get one.” Still, a majority of  students live off campus, possibly because of the lure of the comparative freedom available in an off-campus apartment. 

If students who live on campus have easier access to their classes and professors, what about students who live off campus but still in close proximity to UT?

West Campus apartments are just a short walk to campus — students don’t have to deal with highway traffic jams before their classes, and on-campus events or meetings are much more accessible. 

“I lived in West Campus last year and never had any issues with coming to school for anything during any part of the day,” said psychology junior Zamaria John.

As a junior, I feel like this school year has been my busiest one yet. This year is also my first year of opting to live farther from campus, and I have never been so late to so many things in my life.

It’s no secret that the farther you get from campus, the faster the rent prices drop. But at what cost to students? In my time at UT, many students I have met who live far from the University tend to not get as involved with campus organizations because they know that commuting back and forth to campus multiple times a day would be too much of a burden. 

“West Campus is definitely somewhat worth the cost stigma the apartments have,” John said. “I could run home between classes and always still be on time throughout the day. Living down I-35 seems somewhat close when you make the decision to live there, until you get caught in weekday traffic almost every day.”

Depending on whether or not predicted rent prices for next school year remain at their remarkably high rate in West Campus, students who have to deal with arduous commutes on a daily basis should consider looking past the downsides of West Campus and should try to stay closer to the University and to everything hosted at it. 

Neilson is a public relations junior from Houston.