Penn undergraduates are all too familiar with on-campus housing. With the housing requirement that was implemented a few years ago, undergraduates are required to live on campus for their first four semesters. This can range from first-year-only housing to upperclassmen dorms to four-year communities, with each of the 12 undergraduate College Houses featuring their own styles of rooms.
But for all of the different types of rooms on campus, the fact that there are only two prices in total is ridiculously misleading. Penn can, and should, price their rooms with more variety, to accurately reflect what their students are paying for.
Each year, the price for rooms adjusts, but there are only two total prices for nine different room types in upperclassmen dorms and only one price for each freshman room. These prices don’t accurately reflect the difference in these rooms, often making certain situations and amenities more favorable than others for no reason. The list of amenities in dorms ranges from luxuries like in-room bathrooms, to kitchenettes, or even just a living room separate from the bedroom, but it is worth noting that there are spaces without any of these inclusions.
Let’s look at some of these differences. Every first-year dorm is priced at the same rate of $12,166. But that ranges from the tiny, shared spaces in Hill College House to the recently converted Lauder College House, which features both private bedrooms and bathrooms in their suites. This wide range in quality of living is misleading for many, and results in many dorms being more favorable as opposed to providing equal living for all residents.
The same holds true for upperclassmen housing. Priced at either $12,166 or $15,958, there’s an even wider array of rooms to choose from, and again, certain situations are flat-out more favorable. Those in single apartments see no difference in price compared to people with roommates.
The College House at the Radian makes things even more complicated. Residents can either share a bathroom with other students in their apartment or, if they’re lucky, get their own bathroom. All for the same price at $15,958.
These distinctions are what make each College House unique, sure. But it makes it harder for students to want to live in certain houses when others provide more bang for their buck.
I’ve had a lot of different housing situations during my time at Penn. My first year, I was in a single room in Hill. My sophomore year, I had a triple apartment, and for this year, I live in a single apartment.
I haven’t had bad experiences with any of these rooms individually, and all three have certainly had their ups and downs. But because of the fixed prices, the single apartment is easily the best experience of the three. I get the same space that I had last year, without the addition of roommates on top of it.
Honestly, though, that just shouldn’t be the case.
Penn should be more transparent about their rooms and amenities, and price more accordingly. It’s an unfair situation for people sharing a bed space to be paying the same amount as people with their own rooms, or for those with bathrooms to be paying the same as students who have to use communal bathrooms.
Instead, Penn should be charging in a range of prices, with the most expensive room — most likely a single apartment with a kitchen — being the upper end of the range. At the lower end would be shared bedrooms with communal bathrooms, and the rest of the rooms being incrementally increased in price as the “luxuries” get added.
There’s a larger question to ask, mainly being how feasible it is for Penn to actually break down and implement this style of pricing. But it’s already being done at other schools; Yale charges various rates to match the differences in rooms between dorms. Penn has the foundation, albeit on a much smaller and more limited scale, to do something similar.
With the current state of Penn’s room rates, a student’s College House life is essentially a luck of the draw. For the same price as someone with their own room and bathroom, another student can be crammed into one room with someone else, stuck using a communal bathroom.
These things are a way of life in college. But it’s time for that to change. Penn needs to have more variety in their room pricing, as their current model is too restricted to cover the wide variety of student dorms on campus.
ANDREW STRATTON is a College junior studying political science and journalistic writing from Nanticoke, Pa. His email is email@example.com.