Student housing rules

Opinion writer Stephanie Meckel discusses the restrictive nature of housing for low-income students at Texas A&M. 

During the spring semester, many students are looking for a place to live for the following school year. However, many students have limited options due to their economic situations. 

Living in dorms can be an option for some students, but it is very costly, with dorm prices ranging from $2,400-$5,452 per semester. In addition, incoming freshmen receive priority on-campus housing, which means dorm living might not be an option for some upperclassmen. These are just some of the contributing factors to why 77 percent of students at A&M live in off-campus housing.  

There are many choices for off-campus housing surrounding Texas A&M’s campus.  Apartment prices vary in College Station, depending on the distance from A&M and other factors such as the number of students living in one apartment. As a student who went through the trouble of finding student housing, it is not as easy as it sounds. 

The majority of apartment complexes require students to have a guarantor who makes three to four times the monthly rent. By requiring a guarantor, landlords have someone to hold accountable in case the student does not pay rent.

But many students like me do not have parents who make three to four times the monthly rent and can serve as guarantors. Coming from a low-income household, neither my parents nor any of my family members made enough money to qualify as a guarantor, which greatly limited my options for off-campus housing.

It took a lot of searching to find somewhere that accepted my financial award letter, which states the amount of aid a student receives in scholarships, financial aid and student loans, as proof of income. I was fortunate enough to have a car and could drive to attend classes since the apartments within walking distance from campus would not accept my award letter. 

Students who come from families who do not make enough money to qualify as guarantors are likely to be paying their rent themselves. Therefore, it is difficult to understand why the majority of landlords do not take scholarships, financial aid or student loans as income. 

The best way to help low-income students is by qualifying student financial aid as income. This alternative approach is only fair since financial aid is how many students are paying for school and housing in the first place. Not doing so automatically discredits students whose parents could not afford to help with rent even if they wanted to. 

By allowing students to use their award letters as proof of income, landlords would relieve a significant burden on students and would also increase their number of potential tenants. 

The apartment complexes that would not take my award letter as income told me no because I “could lose my scholarships or financial aid at any time.” However, this is the case for any type of income. As quickly as I could lose my aid, someone — or someone’s guarantor — could lose their job and be unable to pay rent. 

College is already difficult for low-income students. They often have the pressure of being the first in their family to go to college and sometimes have to work to support themselves and, in some cases, even their families. 

Students should not have the additional burden of not finding an affordable and safe place to live. Not allowing students to use financial aid as income is unfair. Landlords and student housing companies need to consider low-income students when setting their policies so that they have the same access to student housing as everyone else.

 Stephanie Meckel is a senior English major and an opinion write for The Battalion. 

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