The Online Beacon

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Student News Site of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

The Online Beacon

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The MCLA Off-Campus Housing Crisis

Previously+owned+by+Moresi+and+Associates%2C+this+building+on+Ashland+Street+was+a+go-to+for+college+students+looking+to+move+off-campus.
Jaden Jackson
Previously owned by Moresi and Associates, this building on Ashland Street was a go-to for college students looking to move off-campus.

One of the defining parts of the college experience is student housing. A student living away from their parents or guardians for the first time, often alongside complete strangers, is often considered a right of passage into adulthood.

This experience is not the optimal choice for everyone, however, and in certain situations, on-campus residency can be detrimental to a student. Unfortunately, as of late, finding, obtaining, and keeping off-campus housing has been immensely difficult for an abundance of students. 

MCLA’s undergraduates have only a few options for on-campus housing, in the form of Hoosac Hall and the Flagg Townhouses. While these options suit a majority of students, they do not work for all. This is especially due to the minimum cost of $4,100 per semester. Many students of MCLA desire to live off campus for many reasons, whether it is cost-related, due to a disability, stemming from a need for independence, etc. 

There are, however, hurdles that an MCLA student must jump over to obtain the off-campus housing they desire, and for many it makes an ideal living arrangement nearly impossible. If a student who lives on campus decides they would like to live off-campus, after agreeing to reside on campus for a full academic year, they must petition for release, regardless of it being a choice or an absolute necessity. 

The MCLA Residence Area Occupancy Agreement Release Petition Information and Guidelines, found on the MCLA website, states that “requesting a release from the Residence Area Occupancy Agreement does not guarantee that a release will be granted.”

This form additionally highlights that “Wanting to move off campus, engagement, siblings attending/planning to attend college, preference to live at home, the opportunity to save money, and a preference to not accept student loans,” are not reasons that are considered “extenuating circumstances” that qualify a student. According to this document, factors such as, “certain medical or psychiatric conditions or unforeseen financial emergencies,” are the only reasons that will be taken into consideration.

Statistically, Gen Z, who make up a majority of MCLA’s student population, experience higher rates of poverty than millennials or Gen X. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 23.8 million, or 36%, American members of Gen Z  are low-income. Additionally, there are many college students in the United States who are not considered to exist within poverty due to an income that is technically higher than the poverty threshold.

Students and their families who are considered middle-class possess an income that is much closer to that of someone in poverty, than someone who possesses a large amount of money and capital, such as a millionaire and/or billionaire. As the Pew Research Center highlights, the income currently held by the American middle-class is consistently falling. This relates to access to off-campus housing when students are denied a release from their residence agreement because they make “too much” money to qualify.

The struggles surrounding the topic of off-campus student housing do not end at the process of leaving one’s current on-campus housing, as it is quite difficult to locate housing in the city of North Adams, and Berkshire County as a whole. Students who plan to live off-campus are faced with minimal residence options, which is unlike many other college towns, such as Amherst, Massachusetts, home of The University of Massachusetts Amherst. In a city such as Amherst, the possibilities for off-campus housing are endless, and UMass Amherst even provides resources for students searching for suitable housing close to campus. 

As for North Adams, if one was to search for student housing near the MCLA campus on a realty website such as Zillow, they would be given very few results; three, to be exact. The apartment available to rent closest to the campus is about a 6-minute drive, and the few apartments available are costly for the typical college student. Some college students do not have or earn income, while others work part-time or full-time jobs.

According to ZipRecruiter, as of August 27th, 2023, the average American student works 40 hours and makes $606 a week, or $15 an hour. If an apartment costs $1,100 a month, such as the one aforementioned, that is nearly half of a student’s monthly salary, while the rest has to go towards factors such as food, gas/transportation, and tuition.

In the past, housing for MCLA undergraduates was more prevalent, being offered by firms such as Moresi and Associates Development Company. Moresi and Associates has rented to MCLA students in the very recent past, but stopped in 2023. David Moresi of Moresi and Associates highlights that “For over 20 years our firm has provided safe, quality housing for MCLA students.” “Unfortunately we found ourselves in a situation where there is no longer something we can do.” 

MCLA students residing in buildings owned by Moresi were heavily affected by this sudden change in living situation, in addition to those who hope to live off-campus. When asked specifically why this shift occurred, Moresi states that “[They] have found it to be challenging to provide affordable student housing over the past 2 years, specifically given the decline in enrollment at MCLA, and have made the decision to move away from that model.” On the topic of what MCLA should do on their part, Moresi believes that, “It is important that MCLA now focus on this issue and look to increase their numbers of on-campus students to ensure their viability of the institution for the years ahead.” 

The off-campus housing complications that continue to occur on the MCLA campus are the result of many variables. In a country where most millennials and Gen Z are likely to not own property for many years, and many are unable to rent due to immense unavailability, lack of affordability, and accessible student housing, it is unfortunately inevitable. The college, along with landlords and agencies who rent to students, possess the responsibility to house students in a manner that is as ethical as possible. MCLA students, and college students as a whole, deserve housing arrangements that are accessible, non-restrictive, secure, safe, and affordable. 

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About the Contributors
Angelina Clark, Web Editor
Jaden Jackson, Staff Writer / Social Media Manager

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