Visual by Jasper Smith.
While students prepare for the school year ahead of them, many Howard University upperclassmen are navigating the challenges of living off campus amid record-high inflation. Students express the frustration they feel finding apartments and adjusting to the rising cost of living, a predicament many did not anticipate to face when they came to Howard as freshmen.
In Washington, D.C., one of the most expensive cities in the country, the average two-bedroom apartment near campus can cost around $3,000. For full-time students with minimal resources, living near campus simply isn’t feasible. However, with limited on-campus housing for upperclassmen, more students are having to choose between affordable housing or proximity to campus.
For Stephani Clarke, a junior psychology major from Chino Hills, California, trying to find an affordable place to live close to campus has been taxing, as the University does not guarantee housing for students following their sophomore year.
“Because I am now not living with my mother and I am now renting my own place, it is extremely difficult trying to find a place within my budget. My mother helps me as much as she can. She’s a single parent so it’s really just me and her when it comes to paying for school and anything school related. This whole housing crisis has definitely taken a toll in terms of finances,” Clarke said.
Like many students, Clarke didn’t expect to face the challenges of adulthood so soon in her matriculation at Howard, something she wished she was better prepared for.
“The most challenging part of it all is finding something within my budget and close to campus. Of course, I could find something in my budget in Maryland or Virginia. However, because I don’t have my car on campus, I would have to take public transportation or call Ubers constantly. The price of those things are going to add up,” she said.
Melanie Jones, Clarkes’s mother, voiced similar concerns. As the parent of a college student, inflation has affected her ability to provide for not only her lifestyle, but her daughter’s education.
“I am no longer able to support our current lifestyle and pay for college, based on my current salary. I have paid the majority of my daughter’s educational expenses. It is extremely difficult to obtain various grants and/or scholarships due to my income level. I am running out of options and am now pulling money out of my retirement account to support her education and our lives,” Jones said.
The Office of Off-Campus Housing and Community Engagement has hosted virtual off-campus housing fairs to assist students in finding a place to live, with the most recent event occurring on July 21. On the office website, students can find D.C. property listings as well as resources for renters in Maryland and Virginia.
Despite the resources Howard University offers, securing housing is still one of numerous stressors that students are plagued with. In addition to securing housing for the school year, students must also account for the rising cost of groceries and transportation. According to the Consumer Price Index, released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in early July, the food at home index rose 1.3 percent in July, including major grocery store foods such as meats, dairy and eggs.
Marshall Williams, a junior finance major from Cleveland, Ohio, has been living off-campus for nearly two years. To support his lifestyle, Williams has had to rely on budgeting and turning down opportunities to hang with friends. To help afford groceries, Williams applied for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or food stamps, a resource that many residents turn to to alleviate the financial stress of paying for groceries.
“Enjoy the fun now before you have to worry about bills and stuff and build genuine relationships with folks because there is no telling who can help you down the line. Also practice saving whenever you can. It is a skill you will need for the rest of your life,” Williams said when asked what advice he would give to younger students who may soon be in his position as an off-campus student.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee