‘No other choice’: Undergrads seek financial aid for summer housing

May 23, 2020, 10:04 p.m.

Undergraduates are calling for summer housing financial aid following the University’s announcement that it plans to maintain summer housing and dining costs at the usual price of $6,155

More than 750 students have signed a petition calling for increased aid and flexibility in contracts and deadlines, arguing that the cost is financially prohibitive for those on campus who have no other housing options. The Undergraduate Senate passed a resolution on Tuesday calling on Residential & Dining Enterprises (R&DE) and the Financial Aid Office to take similar measures.

“For an institution with the capacity and the responsibility to protect its most vulnerable, it is upsetting to see the University side-step that responsibility,” wrote Sheikh Srijon ’22 in a Daily op-ed. “Its balance sheet adjustments will cause sleepless nights and endless anxiety for those of us who cannot afford to go back home.” 

Peer institutions like MIT, Harvard and Duke are extending supplemental aid to students staying over the summer. Harvard is only charging students $200 for summer housing. 

Vice Provost for Student Affairs Susie Brubaker-Cole wrote in a Friday email to students that the University is “working to identify financial resources to help students who need to live on campus this summer and can’t afford the housing fee.” 

On Friday, Senior Associate Vice Provost & Dean of Students Mona Hicks also encouraged students to contact the Financial Aid Office, complete a Summer Aid Application and apply for a Summer Equity Grant if applicable. Hicks wrote that the University is also considering options for “long term student loans and/or payment plans” and that students should expect a follow-up on May 29 “with a detailed outline of all available campus resources.”

But financial aid will only be provided in “certain situations,” according to a May 12 email from Hicks to students on campus, and undergraduates will need to be enrolled in at least eight summer units to be eligible, according to the Financial Aid Office. The summer quarter would also be counted as one of students’ 12 quarters of financial aid eligibility, though students seeking financial aid beyond 12 quarters “may still qualify” for aid with an application, Financial Aid Director Karen Cooper wrote in a statement to The Daily. 

“We encourage students to reach out to us in the Financial Aid Office to discuss the nuances of their individual situations,” Cooper wrote.

On Monday, Hicks emailed students who submitted a summer housing request, asking them to provide details about their summer employment, including whether or not they had a paid internship and approximately how much they would be paid.

Susie Garcia ’22 said she was concerned that survey responses would be used to limit how much financial aid is given to students. Garcia said that while she has a paid internship, she doesn’t know how much she will make over the summer and will not be able to pay the up-front housing costs.

Student Affairs spokesperson Pat Harris declined to comment on specific questions for this article, but encouraged students facing financial hardship to keep in contact with the Financial Aid Office.

‘Immoral and harmful’

The University’s decision to charge the same fees for housing and dining has sparked student criticism. 

The petition, which was primarily authored by Evan Wisner ’22, calls on the University to provide additional financial aid for students with demonstrated need and increase flexibility with housing deadlines and contracts. The petition also asks the Financial Aid Office to provide funds without counting this summer toward students’ 12 quarters of aid. 

“This summer quarter isn’t comparable to previous summers,” the petition reads. “At a time when many of us are struggling with mental health challenges, the uncertainty and cost of summer housing puts an extra burden on low-income students.” 

R&DE spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland wrote in a statement to The Daily that due to COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, students on campus not staying for the summer are expected to leave at the end of the quarter. Breeland wrote that in cases requiring additional flexibility, students should contact the Housing Assignments office for guidance.

Wisner wrote in a statement to The Daily that while they have the ability to pay for housing, they think it is unfair of the University to not provide additional support for low-income students. 

“Students have lost their internships, jobs, access to grants, etc. as a result of this pandemic,” Wisner wrote in a statement to The Daily. “The fact that so many sources of income are simply no longer available should definitely be one of main considerations Stanford takes into account.”

Undergraduate Senate Chair and resolution author Munira Alimire ’22 echoed Wisner’s sentiments, saying the goal of the resolution is for the Undergraduate Senate to “stand in solidarity” with students who are “deeply concerned and scared” about the summer quarter.

The accommodations are necessary to support the students who have been allowed to remain on campus, the resolution argues, stating that “only students with the most extenuating circumstances were allowed to stay on campus” and that “the students who have remained on campus have no other accommodations options but the Stanford residences.” 

“Students are trying to balance a million things and are quite literally cracking under the pressure,” Alimire said. 

Students on campus who are considering staying through the summer also raised concerns about the fees, stating that they feel they have to choose between financial strain or an unplanned academic quarter that would detract from future financial aid. Students requested that the University cut costs or provide additional financial aid flexibility given that many remaining on campus have no other option. 

As an international student, “returning home is impossible,” Srijon wrote in his Daily op-ed. Renting a place to stay in the Bay Area would be cost-prohibitive for international students who face canceled internships, summer jobs and visa restrictions on off-campus work, he added in a statement to The Daily. 

“Students are not staying here by choice but are trapped to shelter here so charging such high summer fees when other universities are not is both immoral and harmful,” Srijon wrote.

Garcia said she knows of students working to find alternative living situations, packing houses with students to reduce costs. That high density could create a COVID-19 risk, she said.

“If one person was to get exposed, everyone would get it,” Garcia said. “There would be no room for social distance.”

Garcia also raised concerns about the requirement that students take classes in order to be eligible for financial aid. Because she has an internship for the summer, Garcia had not planned on taking courses, and no courses are available that she could apply to her major. Garcia said it would be a “wasted quarter” if she took classes and would further force her to take a later quarter off to maintain financial aid eligibility through her graduation.

“We are here specifically because we have no other choice,” Garcia said

May 24, 2:00 p.m.: This article has been updated to include comment from R&DE spokesperson Jocelyn Breeland.

Contact Anna Milstein at annamil ‘at’ stanford.edu and Kate Selig at kkselig23 ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Anna Milstein ’23 is a desk editor for Vol. 259 Academic News and a Staff Writer. Contact her at amilstein ‘at’ stanforddaily.com.Kate Selig served as the Vol. 260 editor in chief. Contact her at kselig 'at' stanforddaily.com.

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