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The true-life dorma-story 

To live on campus or off?

Some call on-campus living a time-honored college tradition, through which lifelong memories and friendships are created. Others consider it a form of torture akin to waterboarding, marked by limited privacy, small space, and large fees. Whatever living accommodation you choose, New Times is here to help shed some stark fluorescent light on a situation in which many first-year students are too often left in the dark.

On campus
Since many students enter college with few or no friends attending the same school, living on campus provides the opportunity to meet co-eds from all walks of life. Cal Poly's Housing and Residential Life presents frequent social activities to help ease the transition for students living alone for the first time while increasing their opportunity to meet fellow undergraduates.

click to enlarge CAMPUS LIFE :  Cal Poly's dorms offer convenience: You're just a few steps away from class, and dining facilities mean you don't have to cook for yourself. Still, off-campus housing offers its own advantages. - PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • CAMPUS LIFE : Cal Poly's dorms offer convenience: You're just a few steps away from class, and dining facilities mean you don't have to cook for yourself. Still, off-campus housing offers its own advantages.

# "If we want our students who are living on campus to benefit from the whole campus experience, we must do more than house them," said Preston Allen, Cal Poly's executive director of housing. "We must integrate them fully into the campus life so they experience the full sense of connection and be personally and academically enriched by the many opportunities."

When a student lives on university grounds, accessibility to campus facilities is a snap. Without the early morning search for a parking space, an eager learner can more easily stumble into an 8 a.m. general education class though that usually means first rolling out of a twin-sized bunk bed.

"Living on campus was very convenient," said Diane Hansen, a Cal Poly junior accounting major who spent her freshman year in the school's Muir Hall. "Food was cooked for me, class was right there, but I had to share a closet-sized room, and everyone was in everyone else's business."


The cost of living on Cal Poly's campus is $4,986 an academic year for residence hall housing and $5,784 to live in Cerro Vista Apartments.

For sloppy students, Cal Poly offers maintenance workers to ensure that residence facilities are constantly clean. Still, you should always wear sandals in the showers. Really.

In terms of safety, resident advisors supply 24-hour supervision and perform various inspections to help protect the security of students living in the residence halls.

Finally, in an effort to help satisfy student's appetites and various taste buds, Cal Poly officials have created diverse dining plans, which offer a wide variety of menus. Dining staff do all of the cooking and cleaning, which, in theory, should give students more time for other activities, like studying. But dismissing a dining plan in favor of fast food or other off-campus meals isn't an option. Students who live in any of Cal Poly's three residence hall complexes are required to purchase dining plans, which cost $3,846 for the academic year or $1,315 per quarter. Cal Poly also offers mini-fridges at $50 for the academic year.

Off campus
Ah, the scent of independence, privacy, and responsibility that comes with living off campus. The freedom, however, comes with some additional costs, such as utilities, groceries, furniture, and cleaning supplies. (That last one is optional, but recommended, as it may help avoid certain other scents.)

Hansen now shares a four-bedroom house on Stenner Street and pays nearly $700 a month in rent and utilities.

"I definitely spend more money off campus," she said. "I hate cooking, so I have a tendency to go out more, which gets expensive. I have to worry about utilities now, and I have to make sure my roommates pay me back for them. It's a lot easier when you're on campus and everything is already paid for but it's nice to get off campus."

Living off campus gives students the freedom to establish their own set of rules. No longer will roommates be decided upon by housing assignment software. If you want to live with a certain someone or have a pet, all you have to do find the appropriate spot and pay the bills.

"I have my own room now," Hansen said. "Living off campus, it's a little more freedom and you're not worried about RA's. You pretty much do whatever you want."

Another housing option that combines security and a social atmosphere reminiscent of the dorms but is located off campus and offers a bit more freedom is Mustang Village.

"I'm not a dorm guy," said Andrew Lassey, Mustang Village leasing manager. "I think the dorms are good for a person that needs structure. You definitely get the college experience here, but it's more of a conventional environment."

Lassey said that the location of Mustang Village, at 1 Mustang Drive near the intersection of Santa Rosa and Foothill, is one of its best selling points for students.

"You can hit campus from here with a golf ball if you're Tiger Woods," he said.

The 11 different floor plans, which range from studios to four-bedroom apartments most with private bathrooms offer residents an array of housing options. Other amenities include two pools, three fitness centers, six laundry mats, a computer center, and on-site security.

Lassey said that Mustang Village typically houses upperclassmen and graduate students, but because of the record-setting freshman class of 4,300 first-year students enrolled this year at Cal Poly, Mustang Village is now more freshman friendly.

Staff Writer Kai Beech can be reached at kbeech@newtimesslo.com.

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