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All Shook Up: Overpriced rent pains college students

In 2013, CBS reported the top 10 cities with the lowest median rent rates for one-bedroom apartments. They found that Wichita, Kansas, had the cheapest median rent at about $625 per month. The 10th spot on the list is Kansas City, Missouri, with a median rent of $730.

Fast-forward five years and here we are as the country’s gross domestic product, typically, has only grown since 2013 (with the exception of Quarter One in 2014). Since then, the housing market has not begun to provide affordable housing in most major urban areas. As rising rent prices push young adults into suburbs outside of the city they work in, problems associated with traffic and sustainability begin to arise.

But housing issues aren’t confined to cities. It also stretches all the way here in Athens County, home of Ohio University.

OU’s undergraduate population for its Athens campus for 2016-2017 was 18,209 students. For the sake of simple math, let’s approximate that number to 18,000 total students, considering the majority of first and second-year, or half of the students, live on-campus (as required by the university), that leaves about 9,000 students who live off-campus. Again, these are not the actual numbers, we are just going with this for reference.

And to compare Athens rent prices to the CBS report, let’s consider a one-bedroom apartment for the majority of this. Even though most students don’t live in a one-bedroom, we’ll visit a three-bedroom price as well to be fair.

Athens has a median rent price of $525 for a one-bedroom apartment outside of the town-center and $850 for housing near the town-center area. Assuming that town center is Court Street or the campus area, the farther you would stray from there is getting farther from that. Thus, students will pay about $7,200 each year for rent and utilities living outside of the town center, while students who opt to stay closer to campus will be paying about $10,000.

Working 25 hours a week while in school full-time with a minimum wage job (which is $8.15 hourly in Ohio) would bring home about $10,500 before taxes annually. This is, typically, what a student at OU would be making should they work a minimum wage job at 25 hours a week. But many OU students have roommates. OU Commons is a popular apartment complex for students. Offering studios, two and four-bedroom apartments,.It’s not as expensive as it’s farther from the town center. The cost, per person, of a two-bedroom apartment is $550 a month. This includes some utilities as well. At 25 hours a week, the average student would bring $815 home a month, leaving $265 for whatever else they may need to spend money on. 

That means students are left with the option of living far off-campus and just making it by or living close to campus and being forced to work more hours or pick up a second job. Of course, if none of this appeals to you there’s always the residence halls which, costs about $7,000. So living situation aside, 2016’s collegiate graduates averaged a debt of $37,172 per student. Worrying about making rent during school on top of impending debt is certainly an unfortunate circumstance.

As a student in this situation, either I take out another private loans and go further in debt without a strong credit score, or work my tail off and hope I have enough to pay the bills at the end of every month. My life has been formatted around the latter for the past three years, from working for the university during school to working seasonal jobs when I’m home for the holidays, to working two or even three jobs during the summers to save money for the school year.

Now don’t take this the wrong way. I have enjoyed the my time at OU, but the one thing that has stressed me out the most hasn’t been studying for the LSAT or applying for law schools. It's been me asking myself “How am I going to pay for this?”

A home is a basic human right, and college towns prey on students and overcharge them on poor housing to make a profit. So while your dishwasher may not work in your overpriced apartment a mile away from campus, don't forget about your probable debt as well.

Nick Shook is a senior studying political science pre-law at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you feel rent pains too? Let Nick know by emailing him at ns258814@ohio.edu

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