Higher rental fees incurred by graduate and undergraduate students slow their academic progress and discourage them from applying to UCSB. Moreover, the more expensive housing is in general, the more difficult it is for UCSB to recruit the best graduate students. In deciding among universities, students take into account the economic costs of equivalent educational opportunities, and select accordingly.
The quality of our graduate students directly affects undergraduate education, the quality of graduate research and the quality of research support for professors. Additionally, the cost of attending school is a major contributing factor in the decision not to continue academic pursuits. For these reasons, additional money spent by graduate students on rent has a negative impact on our academic programs. Therefore, it is much better to keep housing relatively inexpensive by containing costs, rather than looking for increased state funding to cover the continuing added financial burden of expensive housing through inflated stipends.
These factors need to be considered in siting decisions, decisions about amenities to be provided in housing units, and auxiliary structures associated with the project. I have particular concerns regarding movement of parking lots and playing fields to facilitate the proposed siting and construction of auxiliary structures, which may not be needed. Additionally, staffing decisions, overall design, and other factors should also be regularly reviewed with cost containment in mind. Staff overhead in housing and other affiliated units should be kept to a bare minimum, bearing in mind that graduate students do not have the same programming needs as undergraduates.
Housing is considered an auxiliary service. As in many auxiliary services, it is easy to forget the direct and crucial academic impact that it provides. Affordable, livable and safe housing within a reasonable commute to the university is basic to academic success. Like all other decisions involving student success, decisions involving housing should be carefully considered with a primary focus on improving our overall academic mission. By containing construction costs and life-cycle costs, we can increase our competitiveness for and retention of quality students.
Edward Collins is the external president of the Graduate Students Association.