Are you exempt?

Oregon State University: First Year Experience Exemptions Policy

Arnav Bhutani

The first-year housing experience at Oregon State University costs too much. But worst of all, the majority of OSU students cannot choose where they live during their first year. OSU policy dictates that all students must stay in the dorms. The only way for us students to avoid this problem is to qualify for an exemption as outlined by the OSU first year experience document. Should the exemptions policy in this document be violated, students can be met with “sanctions through the student conduct process”.

However, this list of exemptions comes with one important caveat, you can’t use an exemption to save money. In short, students can’t move out of the dorms to avoid paying the cost of their dorm and meal plan. However most students cannot ignore the price of the dorms. The present cost of the dorms can cost more than a students’ tuition for the first year. Allowing students to move off campus would allow them to take advantage of comparative apartments in the Corvallis area which are far less expensive. The dorms provide no clear advantage in terms of price, so forcing students to stay on campus and pay exorbitant prices is quite unfair. Allowing students to move off campus to save money would at least alleviate some of the pressures which OSU students are feeling financially.

But that is not all, allowing students to use exemptions to save money isn’t the only problem with the OSU exemptions policy, we need to look at the exemptions themselves. The exemptions seem to fall into three categories:

  • The student is living in an OSU-sanctioned fraternity or sorority.
  • The student is not a first-year student
  • The student is living with family in or near Corvallis

It would be very difficult for a student to save money living off campus during the first year with these exemptions. Greek life at OSU often costs just as much as the dorms, and to add to that, not all freshman opt into Greek life. Forcing a student to choose a lifestyle that they are uncomfortable with just to save money seems to be contrary to OSU’s mission of providing an excellent teaching and learning environment to achieve student success. Another category of exemptions requires the student not be a first-year student, in which case the student wouldn’t be affected by the first-year policy in the first place. The last category of exemptions requires first year students to live with their family in or near Corvallis. While this exemption is practical, the university cannot expect all of its first-year students who struggle financially to have the resources to move their families to Corvallis. While some of the exemptions presented in the OSU exemptions policy can help students save money by living off campus, they are very narrow and do not apply to the majority of first-year students.

It is clear that the OSU first year housing experience needs to be changed. Whether that comes through exemptions or the policy itself. Students need to be given more options when it comes to housing. Oregon State University has transformed on-campus housing from being an affordable option for students to another way to siphon money out of students’ already meager bank accounts.

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