Old Dogs, New Tricks

A blog for non-traditional students


Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like older students are getting the short end of the stick these days at UC.  The loss of dependent coverage in student health insurance has certainly put students with families in a tight spot.  Those who have small children and need accessible childcare will likely do better to check into their neighborhood daycare center – there is a waiting list for the UC Early Learning Center, which is not exactly conveniently located for West Campus students (see map).

But the final straw came last spring when UC announced their plans to close Morgens and Scioto Halls, the on-campus graduate and family housing.  While no one could argue that the buildings needed to be revamped to meet modern safety standards, the head shaking and grumbling really began when we found out that BOTH of these halls would reopen as traditional dorm housing, being rented on a bed-by-bed basis.  Even though I don’t live in Clifton, I was left scratching my head at the conversion from apartments to dorm rooms in buildings that have been home to graduate, international and non-traditional students.  The university is encouraging these student populations to return to Morgens and Scioto when the renovations are completed, but I have to wonder who thinks that is either a good idea or likely to occur.

When I returned to UC in the fall of 2006, I considered moving on campus.  The apartment-style housing offered in Morgens and Scioto was the only one I considered, since I wanted to bring my son with me.  Ultimately, financial constraints – more commonly known as being flat broke – kept me from relocating to Clifton.  I’m now at the point where I might have been able to afford the move, but the idea of trying to live in the communal setting of a dorm with my eleven-year-old boy is laughable at best.  Even if I were alone, I think I would find living with that many of my younger classmates to be too distracting.

Thankfully, the kindred spirits of non-traditionals – graduate students – are trying to rectify the situation.  The Graduate Student Governance Association (GSGA) surveyed 1,071 graduate students about the proposed changes to housing and the consequences of the rather late announcement in March 2008 that the halls would need to be cleared out by August 2008.  Based in part on the results of the survey, the Graduate Student and Family Housing Task Force submitted a housing proposal to President Nancy Zimpher on Dec. 1, 2008.  While the public version of the final report has not been made available yet, I obtained a copy of an earlier version through the GSGA’s website. 

          For an overview of the situation check out Madison Galster’s article on the report.

Not surprisingly, 96 percent of the survey respondents preferred apartment-style housing over the “bed-by-bed” model.  The bed-by-bed model would mean significantly higher rent compared to what residents were paying in Morgens and Scioto prior to the renovations, according to the report.  The increased rent would make this style of housing exorbitantly expensive for students with families.  In response to the cost issue, the task force offered two recommendations; rents in the new model should be equivalent to what residents were paying before (with a separate pricing scheme for students with families) and that students should be informed as to the required occupancy of their rooms before they sign a lease.

The second recommendation also relates to the concept of roommates, another consequence of the new model.  Common sense drove the recommendations of the task force in this regard; students should be allowed to select their own roommates, while students with families should be exempt from sharing their space at all. 

With the recent announcement of Stratford Heights becoming an official part of UC housing, rather than simply affiliated, I wonder if the plans for Morgens and Scioto might be altered at this late date.  Next year there will be a phenomenal increase in on-campus housing for undergraduates interested in dorm-style living.  But the websites for undergraduate and graduate housing at UC illustrate which group has higher priority – there are only recommendations for the graduates, either affiliated housing or private rentals.

All of this led me to wonder what other local universities offer their graduate students.  Xavier, Miami, Mount Saint Joseph and NKU seem to operate on the same presumption that those pursuing post-graduate degrees can take care of their own housing needs – affiliated housing and rental listings are all they have to offer on their websites.  However, heading an hour north on I-75, the situation seems to improve; both Wright State and the University of Dayton offer on-campus housing to graduate students that takes into consideration their needs – apartment-style rentals rather than bed-by-bed.

While I talked a lot about graduate students here, it bears mentioning that we non-traditional students generally suffer from the same issues and have a lot of the same needs.  In fact, I have found that in general I have more in common and am more comfortable with grad students than some of my younger classmates.  But I think it is obvious that we need to speak up about these decisions that negatively impact our college experience.  I worry that the recent changes in housing and student health insurance are just a sign of a larger change in priorities – it feels a lot like we’re getting the brush off here, and I think it’s high time someone explained why the university is focusing on the needs of traditionals and shutting us old farts out in the cold.

*** Danielle


January 11, 2009 Posted by | Student Life, University Policies | 2 Comments