WSUV looks at adding on-campus housing

Full-time students at growing commuter school find availability lacking

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter

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Clark County’s housing crunch became all too real for Eli Campbell when they were evicted without cause from their apartment about a year ago.

The already difficult challenge of finding a home was exacerbated for Campbell by their full class schedule as a Washington State University Vancouver student.

“I couldn’t find a place to live,” said Campbell, now in their last year at the Salmon Creek campus. “I looked for places all over, and I couldn’t get in. I’m restricted in my income.”

Thanks to assistance from the Vancouver Housing Authority, Campbell was able to find an apartment in east Vancouver. But housing resources for full-time students at the growing commuter campus are limited, prompting WSU Vancouver to begin considering adding housing to its campus. A team of administrators and staff will soon discuss the path forward to adding on-campus housing.

Despite the proposal being in its early phases, housing is something Campbell believes could have made a significant difference for them and other students who struggle to find a home.

“I would not have to worry so much if I was going to get a no-cause eviction notice,” Campbell said. “I wouldn’t have to take federal funding while having to work three or four jobs.”

Construction is still a long way off if the university pursues dormitories or apartments — the property isn’t currently zoned to allow residential buildings, and the campus master plan does not include undergraduate housing, said Nancy Youlden, the university’s vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment.

“We don’t have a distinct timeline,” Youlden said. “We don’t have our funding model.”

But as WSU Vancouver’s undergraduate and international student populations have grown, students and their families have increasingly asked for opportunities to live on campus, Youlden said. WSU Vancouver set enrollment records this year with 3,546 students enrolled, a 3.5 percent increase over last year.

“The whole idea of housing certainly supports our land grant mission of access, openness and service,” Youlden said.

None of WSU’s branch campuses have on-campus housing, though WSU Tri-Cities is slated to begin construction of a 15-acre housing facility.

Dormitories in Pullman average about $3,800 a semester, while student apartments cost between $908 and $1,188 for an unfurnished two-bedroom.

WSU Vancouver’s website, meanwhile, suggests students can find housing in the Mount Vista neighborhood surrounding campus or find apartments in the surrounding area.

Zillow listings for homes for rent surrounding campus range from $1,250 for a two-bedroom condo to $1,950 for a three-bedroom house. The website also lists three apartment complexes within 3 miles of campus in Salmon Creek: Highland Hills Apartments, Willow Pointe and Vista View Apartments.

The estimated rent, however, ranges from $800 to $1,300 as of fall 2014. But those rates are out of date. Those apartments now range from $1,095 for a one-bedroom apartment to $1,995 for a three-bedroom.

Naomi Grande, vice president of WSU Vancouver’s associated student body, attended and lived on the Pullman campus. Grande is the student representative on the school’s housing committee, which met for the first time late last week.

Grande credits the accessibility of school resources for her academic success — an advantage she says Vancouver students don’t currently have.

“Since we are a commuter campus, a lot of students come to class, then they have to head off to work and they don’t have that free time to really explore campus,” she said.