For the approximately 275 students who choose to remain on campus each summer, the College-owned apartments located at Hannum Drive have always been an alluringly cheap source of housing. A significant spike in rent resulting from an update to the existing payment system, therefore, has been met with criticism from some tenants.
They include physics major Shaun Fedrick ’21. Fedrick, who conducted research on lubrication forces in Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ted Brzinski’s lab until early August, was alarmed when he first saw his bill.
“I understand that rent increases with the times, and that it increases as property values go up,” he explained in a phone call. “But if you’re going to increase the rent of summer housing, I think it would be appropriate to increase the pay of students living on campus to be in accordance with the cost of living. And the budget of how much you get for doing research or working on campus is not the most…it’s livable, but it’s not great.”
For Fedrick, who receives financial aid from the College, there’s an added fount of pressure: the “summer savings expectation,” or the stipulation that all students on financial aid must earn around $2000 to put toward tuition costs each summer.
“It is a little concerning to me because of that, that the price of summer housing increased,” he said. “I just worry that there’s a trend of keeping up with increasing rent prices—like, there’s no way I’d be able to keep up.”
Fedrick also voices the belief that the College could’ve been more transparent in its communications with prospective tenants as the spring semester drew to a close.
“Just for me, at least,” he said, “I wasn’t informed at billing that there was an increase. That would’ve been really nice, if they’d explained, ‘Oh, rising costs…’ But I don’t think there was very much transparency in this increase. It was almost as if they didn’t want people to know that there was one. It was subtle. Not so subtle that you wouldn’t notice it, but still something that I didn’t pick up on until I checked my bank statement from last summer.”
Not all HCA summer residents believe the increase in rent to be cause for alarm, however. Silvia Susai ’20, a computer science major working with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Sorelle Friedler on “projects that highlight the real-world [applications] of computing,” believes the rejiggered rate to be reasonable, though, as she says, “I think anyone would prefer lower rent!” In the end, she’s just grateful to have comparatively cheap housing options in the form of HCA.
“Thankfully, this personally did not present any financial issues for me,” she said in a text message. “I do think that the rent prices are somewhat reasonable, compared to what I’ve heard other friends pay (albeit in much more expensive markets such as NYC).” (According to the rental statistics site RentCafé, an average Haverford, PA, apartment costs $1,471 per month, nearly five hundred dollars more than an HCA apartment).
Likewise, Geoff Labe, Haverford’s director of Conferences and Events—the campus organization that oversees summer housing logistics—believes that the raise should not be cause for concern. Making sure to note that “the College’s summer housing rental fees are below average for this area and [are] often viewed as more cost-effective than other housing options in the area and/or other apartments,” Labe said that it’s typical for “rent levels [to] see small increases over the prior year.” Moreover, he indicated, the recent implementation of the new housing system, which includes “several enhancements [that]…improved roommate and apartment selection, individual payment options and flexibility, and also streamlined the application process,” made this year’s increase particularly justifiable.
“We have received very positive feedback with regard to the new system and enhancements made to the roommate designation or selection process and payment options,” he wrote in an email. “We welcome and appreciate feedback and are very happy to meet with any student to discuss their application. We are also pleased that the College is able to offer summer rental rates, opening and closing dates for summer rentals, and other flexibility that start with being financially attractive.”
According to Fedrick, Susai, and Conferences and Events records, rent was about $880 per month last summer and increased by $120 per month this summer. The College’s summer hourly wage has held steady at $11.