My parents and I walked into the Ordal Dining Hall in our very best business casual to attend the Distinguished Scholars Event. I was nervous, fidgeting with my hair every 10 seconds. Not only was this a “fancy” dinner, but the results of the afternoon could also determine if I could become a Viking.
As a student of decent academic standing, I was awarded a merit scholarship and invited to compete for a larger scholarship. The decision to grant me this money was based on my high school grades, ACT scores, admittance status and interview with faculty members.
I was never asked, on an application or in an interview, if I planned to live on campus or have a meal plan.
So imagine my surprise when I decided to move off campus and Augustana told me they would be prorating my academic scholarship by 80% since I was neither in the dorms nor had a meal plan. Taking away a fifth of my Augustana scholarship for something that is in no way related to my academic performance — I had continually met the university’s GPA and credit requirements in order to retain my scholarship — is absurd.
With Augustana boasting a total cost of around $40,000 (once you calculate tuition, housing, meal plan, parking passes and mysterious fees), scholarship and grant money are the only ways most students can even come close to being able to afford attendance.
Punishing students for seeking the independence of off-campus living is in direct opposition to the university’s goal of forming young adults that are ready to take on the world as they leave campus.
For some, living off-campus may be less of an option and more of a necessity. I know some students who live at home in order to help their parents with older relatives or younger siblings. Personally, moving out of a dorm helped my social anxiety and overall mental health immensely ( I also got to have my puppy, so that’s a plus in the mental health column too).
The same year I decided to live off-campus, Augustana was struggling to find housing for all the incoming freshmen. Salt meet wound. So I was being penalized for helping ease the school’s housing crisis? Really?
Augustana needs to come to terms with the reality of growing enrollment numbers and changing standards for college adults.
College is no longer the temporary living situation before students get married and move in with their spouse like it was in my grandparents’ time. If Augustana is going to continue to attract students — especially with the goal of increasing enrollment to 3,000 — it has to commit itself to providing alternative-housing arrangements to dorm life and stop punishing those who need or want to find living situations that better fit their needs.
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