When colleges and universities assess the different ways to ensure and measure student success, they often look at graduation rates, classroom ratios and the time it takes to complete a degree. But outside elements, such as access to affordable and accessible housing, play a crucial role in a student’s educational outcome as well as maintaining a campus’ history and atmosphere.
Here at the University of Minnesota we have seen an increasing amount of new and luxurious apartment complexes that are marketed to students as an alternative option to living in the dorms. There is greater sense of independence due to the limited amount of supervision, compared to the dorms, that comes with living at The Bridges or Floco. You also have a wide array of amenities that include rooftop hot tubs, exclusive study spaces and private gyms only accessible by tenants. But is it worth forking over hundreds of dollars every month to occupy a such small space with five other people?
It also brings into question the demographic these developers target. Large and colorful banners line 4th Street and our Instagram algorithms bombard us with sponsored photoset advertisements that show each shiny new countertop, spacious bedroom and premiere Minneapolis skyline views. It’s hard to resist temptation when you are presented with an overwhelming amount of luxury, but if you are working within a limited budget, as most college students are, living in excess during your college experience is merely a pipedream.
We also need to remember the historical value of our neighborhoods and commercial areas. Marcy Holmes is one of Minneapolis' first neighborhoods. Dinkytown is home to classic Minneapolis staples like Annie’s Parlour, the Loring Pasta Bar and Varsity Theater — a movie auditorium turned concert hall built in 1919. University students have been loyal patrons and customers to these campus staples for decades, and it seems almost sacrilegious to bulldoze our way through for the sake of luxury price-tagged high rises.
When it comes to new apartment developments on campus, we need to keep the everyday student in mind. We all should strive to encourage student success and find ways to alleviate burdening financial factors, whether that be through capping rising tuition costs or addressing unaffordable campus housing. We don’t have to completely dismiss the idea of building brand new, but we should take a step back and think about the effect it will have on our campus. We need to prioritize our students and invest in our local businesses in order to strengthen the community we call home.