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University of Calgary first-year residence programs are overpriced when compared to the market

By Trevor Landsburg, October 13, 2017 — 

The University of Calgary’s first-year residence plans are overpriced for what they provide to students. Rundle and Kananaskis hall, the two first-year residence buildings, provide an 18-square-metre room equipped with a desk, mini-fridge, bookshelf, single bed, dresser and bulletin board. In a standard plan the main room and mini-fridge are shared between two people.  

These residence rooms come with shared bathrooms in each wing that have around four bathroom stalls, a few communal shower stalls and shared sinks. These shared living spaces in addition to the mandatory food plan can cost students up to $7,893 in their first year. This price also gives students access to a common area and laundry facilities. The communal area has a couple of couches, a TV and some tables, but it’s hardly worth the cost that first-year students pay.

The costs don’t stop here. Not included in these costs are parking or laundry fees — and these add up quickly. Residence parking can cost up to $900 for an eight-month pass and laundry costs five dollars per load. A domestic student on a standard living plan ends up paying over $15,000 with tuition to live on campus. This is overpriced for the meager accommodations provided by these residence buildings, especially when compared to the rest of Calgary.

As a first-year student living in residence, I was very excited about the opportunity to enter post-secondary and make new friends on campus. Instead, I contracted foot fungus from the one time I didn’t wear my shower sandals in the communal showers and shared a room the size of a large closet with a stranger. Considering how much money I was spending on residence, I expected much better living conditions. And if you want to try and better your residence experience, your best options involve you paying an even higher price, such as not having a roommate or upgrading to a larger room.

Comparable accommodations just off campus cost students a fraction of what residence does. As a student living in Varsity, my current living costs are $1,100 for a two-bedroom condo close to campus. I enjoy a similar convenience of being a short bus ride away from my classes but enjoy in-suite laundry, private bathrooms, a full kitchen and free parking. My partner and I split the cost of this condo at $550 each per month, which is on par with current market costs. Residence’s inflated prices are extremely disconnected from the current market value of their properties.

Residence’s main promise to students is social integration with fellow first-year students and academic success because of the convenience of living close to your classes. Although residence has these perks, it is not worth what students currently pay. I left residence having enjoyed the experience of waking up 15 minutes before my classes, but I still have a debt burden of over $16,000 that haunts me to this day. Residence Services should make first-year housing more accessible for new students unfamiliar with Calgary’s living costs.

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