The University recently announced that, due to the pandemic, summer housing would be limited to a subset of students already on campus. As The Daily Princetonian reported, this group comprises students on financial aid who fall into one or more of the following four categories: those who are financially independent, international students unable to return to their homes due to travel restrictions, those with extreme financial need, and students living in graduate family housing.
Though this Board commends efforts to minimize the transmission of COVID-19 on campus over the summer, we are deeply concerned by the large and seemingly arbitrary cost that the University is imposing on these students.
Under normal circumstances, the University charges $1,744 for housing over an eight-week period in the summer. Due to COVID-19, however, the University has extended housing for the full 13-week period of the summer break, and discounted the cost to $1,500. Given that those who are staying on campus this summer have no real alternative and are only there because of the circumstances brought on by the pandemic and their financial situations, the $1,500 charge is unreasonable.
The University has already recognized that these students “may not have external resources to find and secure off-campus housing,” so we find it disappointing that the University is merely acknowledging, but not acting on, the lack of resources. Acknowledging that this particularly vulnerable group of students will likely have difficulty affording the $1,500 cost, the University has offered two options: a $2,000 loan or summer employment.
Given the extremely small relative cost to the University and high relative cost to the students, this Board considers the price both arbitrary and unfair. Fewer than 500 students will be on campus this summer; any possible revenue from charging a small group of financially needy students $1,500 is inconsequential in the University’s overall budget, more than $2.3 billion annually.
Peer institutions are offering summer housing to students in need at more reasonable prices. Harvard University, for example, is only charging students $200. There is no reason that University students should be forced to go into debt for summer housing.
This board understands that in the midst of the pandemic, and resulting economic downturn, the University may need to take belt-tightening measures. But for an institution that spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on one-day parties, not to mention thousands more on bonfire celebrations and designer chairs, there is no defensible rationale for charging low-income students such a significant sum. We call on the University to revise the cost of summer housing.
Zachariah W. Sippy ’22
Benjamin Ball ’21
Shannon E. Chaffers ’22
Rachel Kennedy ’21
Kate Lee ’23
Madeleine Marr ’21
Jonathan A. Ort ’21
Elizabeth Parker ’21
Emma Treadway ’22
Ivy Truong ’21
Cy Watsky ’21